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Scripps Study: Ad Engagement Higher With Lifestyle Shows

Research compares how different genres affect commercial effectiveness

A new study commissioned by Scripps Networks Interactive finds that the kind of lifestyle programming found on the company’s cable networks generate higher engagement with advertising messages than other programming genres.

Conducted by Nielsen, the Environment and Advertiser Impact Study, found that commercials running in lifestyle programming scored 22% higher on the traditional measure of advertising engagement, including interest in products, attention to brands, intent to seek information and purchase intent.

Scripps Networks has long touted the engagement of its programming as being a benefit for advertisers and has done research in which HGTV and Food Network appear at the top of the rankings. This study is unique because it compares the lifestyle genre to other genres, such as entertainment, sports, reality and news.

The study is being released just before Scripps Networks' upfront presentation to advertisers in New York on Wednesday. Scripps will be holding additional presentations in other cities. During the upfront, cable networks try to sell upwards of half of their commercial inventory for the upcoming season.

Related: Lifestyle Shows on a Hot Streak With Sponsors

Nielsen used neuroscience techniques in addition to traditional attitudinal methodologies to understand how ads are perceived when they air during different programming environments.

“Strong creative grabs viewers’ attention, generates an emotional response and builds or reinforces long term memories,” said Dr. Carl Marci, chief neuroscientist at Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience. “This study suggests that in the context of lifestyle programming, ads may gain additional benefit.”

Lifestyle programming had the largest impact on brand favorability across all eight advertising sectors measured in the study. Viewers had a more favorable opinion of every brand advertised across the categories of auto, consumer packaged goods, food and home, home improvement, finance, restaurants, retail and travel.

"We’ve always understood the importance ads play in the viewer experience because we know how much the viewing environment matters," said Chris Ryan, senior VP of ad sales research and strategy for Scripps Networks Interactive.

Some networks and media buyers are focusing on buying targeted audience segments by using data to identify likely buyers of their products, but such audience buying might not take into account the content of the programming.

“If you only buy audience, you run the chance that your ads may air in a place where people don’t engage with the messaging. How people engage when they’re watching ads on our networks is the key to success—both ours and our advertisers,” Ryan said.

In the biometric section of the study, Nielsen found that emotional engagement was 94% greater for ads appearing in Scripps lifestyle shows.

When compared to ads appearing in other programming genres, lifestyle beat drama-style shows including reality and general entertainment by 52% and event-related genres, such as sports and news, by 161%.

Lifestyle programming is also attractive to viewers. During the fourth quarter, all six of Scripps Networks’ lifestyle networks had higher ratings than a year ago in an environment where the majority of cable networks were drawing smaller linear audiences.

The attitudinal part of the study was conducted via an online survey of 4,400 nationally representative pay-TV households. Each one watched a full-hour episode of a show with four commercial breaks, each containing four ads. The sixteen ads were from multiple advertising categories.

A similar set of 16 ads was viewed by the 200 participants in the neuroscience part of the study, conducted in a laboratory setting.