The University of Iowa

Annual Report 2010-2011

Out Front logo--The University of Iowa

Did you see that?

Marketing researcher examines how we remember what we don't remember

Just because you zip through the commercials while watching your favorite TV shows on your DVR doesn't mean the sales pitches aren't getting through.

"It's clear from research that many times, when you fast forward through the ads, they frequently influence the viewer," says Rob Rouwenhorst, a lecturer of marketing in the University of Iowa's Tippie College of Business who studies the psychology of advertising.

The title of Rouwenhorst's recently completed doctoral thesis is "Do Zipped Commercials Influence You?" and that also turns out to be a multi-billion dollar question in the entertainment industry. More than 36 million Americans own DVR devices of some kind—TiVo is the most well known—and numerous studies show that more than half of them fast forward through the commercials.

Since advertisers can no longer be sure how many viewers are paying attention to their commercials, they will either pay less for them or look for other advertising methods altogether. As a result, Rouwenhorst said billions of dollars in advertising revenue are at stake for broadcasters.

He said his interest in zipped commercials started when he became enraptured with his first TiVo, which he bought in 2001 as an MBA student.

"I watched more TV than I should when I was studying for my MBA, and then had to quit watching entirely when I started studying for my Ph.D.," he said. But one question that came to mind as he zipped through commercials, and then lingered even after he'd given up television, was whether those commercials made any impact on his behavior even though he had no conscious memory of them.

He made that the central question of his research and discovered that, yes, they probably had. He says researchers have looked at how well consumers remember ads that are zipped at speeds of 300, 1,800 and 6,000 percent real-time. They've found that at 300 percent, viewers can recall an ad even better than one they've seen at normal speed. While this may seem counterintuitive, Rouwenhorst said it's possible because the viewer using a DVR is actually paying more attention to the screen as she's zipping through ads so she can stop right at the start of the program's next segment.

For that reason, Rouwenhorst says, companies engaged in online advertising may be better served by allowing consumers to fast-forward through videos but regulate their speed.

"Viewers often just open up a new window and continuing browsing until the advertisement they are 'forced' to watch ends," he says. "It may be more advantageous to give customers a sense of control and let them fast-forward, but at a slow speed. Not only would they be more likely to recall the advertising but they may actually feel more positively toward the brand that did not force them to sit through an advertisement."

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Peel appeal

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Fear discovery

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Cystic fibrosis finding

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Locking out Ebola?

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Beating mealtime woes

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Body-language bewilderment

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Muscular dystrophy discovery

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Taking back the message

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Meeting real challenges

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Online approach adds up

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Stop the wacky wikis!

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Managers matter

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A welcome proposal

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Something in the air

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Set sail on micro scale

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Sharing our gift

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Helping unify a nation

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Giving Chile a clearer picture

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Screening overseas

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Aiding a town’s turnaround

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Beyond science

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A global grasp

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A plan of note

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Something to admire

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Democracy's harmony

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Tom Aprile exhibit

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