Study Gauges Engagement

11/07/2008 7:00 PM Eastern

Marketing experts are in the final stages of a research report on the efficacy of content on TVs, PCs and cellphones, a study that will combine data from TV ratings, telephone polls and physical reactions by viewers who are wired up so their heart rates can be collected and their eye movements tracked.

The study is an initiative of the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing’s research committee, which includes 31 executives from operators and programmers, as well as Nielsen Media Research and NeuroFocus, a research firm that measures physical responses to different types of content.

The goal is to better understand the consumer experience in a changing media landscape.

The four-phase study will be released to CTAM members later this month and in the first quarter of next year. But Christie Kawada, vice president at Nielsen Entertainment Television, teased this result: television generates high marks for emotional engagement, intent to purchase, awareness of ads and reaction to their novelty after viewing, compared with Internet or mobile marketing messages.

Mobile content can be effective, too, but only for really novel ads.

Men and women have different responses when it comes to content engagement, Kawada also said, though she deferred further comment until the full report is released.

For the first phase, a 60-person panel was recruited for testing by NeuroFocus. Men and women were represented equally. Participants were 18 to 54 years old, had recently viewed both television and Internet content and were at least familiar with viewing video on smart phones.

Panelists were wired to measure heart rates, where they looked and galvanic responses to four ads — promotional and retail spots — before and during popular cable programs.

Test ads then were placed in shorter versions of the cable shows for viewing online and via iPhone.

Information from that study phase is being compared with data from other sources regularly collected by Nielsen. One source: 20,000 cellular users who let Nielsen access their cellphone bills to obtain information monthly on minutes used, texts sent and received and data accessed.

Another source is a group that lets researchers use People Meters and the Online Net Site Meters to measure their television and online usage at the same date and time. Nielsen uses that panel to study what homes are using the Internet to interact more deeply with content — for example, ESPN football watchers who simultaneously use laptops to monitor fantasy football teams — and which homes have the TV on in the background while Web surfers look at unrelated content.

The final phase is a fusion analysis, linking media attitudes with behaviors.

Howard Shimmel, communications director for the convergence-tracking Nielsen Connections unit, predicted the completed report will find “heavy users are heavy users,” and content consumption on second and third screens is incremental to television viewing.

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