Neuroscience study shows power of contextual radio ads

14 May 2019  |  Michaela Jefferson 
Neuroscience study shows power of contextual radio ads

Radio ads that correspond with the current activities of their listeners are significantly more effective in terms of memory encoding and recall, new research has revealed.

Commissioned by Radiocentre and conducted by Neuro-Insight, a study of 116 participants found that engagement with an ad rose 23% when the ad was targeted to suit the activity they were undertaking, such as housework, exercise or driving a car.

Meanwhile, memory encoding - the process of turning an experience into a memory, which is considered crucial for advertising effectiveness - rose 22%.

Furthermore, 'contextual' ads were found to have a higher unprompted recall rate.

According to Heather Andrew, CEO of Neuro-Insight UK, radio therefore represents a "unique and powerful opportunity" to bolster advertising effects by speaking to audiences at relevant times.

“Ads that are creatively tailored to the moment deliver the largest effects. The take-out for radio ads is to make explicit references in the ad creative to the task or activity you are targeting," she said, adding that if the brain makes the link between an ad and a task in which it is engages, then it is more likely to process the advertising.

To measure engagement and memory encoding levels for the study, participants undertook tasks including cooking, simulated driving, exercising and working while wearing headsets fitted with sensors.

Although not told why they were listening, the radio was played in the background during tasks, and participants were exposed to a variety of ads, some of which were relevant. For example, participants using exercise bikes heard ads including Boost energy bars and Curry's Apple Watch.

According to Radiocentre, the research "debunks the myth" that listeners do not process radio ads as they are often simultaneously engaged in other activities, and instead suggests that those activities can reinforce radio messages.

The study also revealed that when a task requires higher mental effort the uplift effects of relevance on engagement and memory encoding are reduced; however, Radiocentre claims that most consumers listen to the radio when engaged in everyday tasks carried out on 'autopilot'.

In one example, writing a shopping list saw memory encoding and recall rates drop. However, driving a car saw them increase substantially.

Speaking at the annual Tuning In conference to present the findings, Andrews added that some of the best performing ads - from across any medium - had also been witnessed during the experiment.

"These [contextualised ads], had a strong and significant impact," she said. "Well into the top ten per cent of ads we've ever researched, including in TV."

Meanwhile, Radiocentre's planning director, Mark Barber, said: “The research is further evidence of the effectiveness of radio advertising.

"As audio booms with the rise of streaming, podcasts and the continuing success of radio, advertisers have a unique opportunity to turbo-charge their ad effectiveness by incorporating situational relevance.”

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