Given lots of cues and prompts, few people remember anything about your television commercial the day after they watched it.
We have clients who are convinced of the power of television advertising. When they drop a commercial into a program, they're working under the assumption that most people watching pay at least some attention to the advertising. They believe that these people could remember something about the spot if asked the next day.
We argue that it's far more likely that you’ll find no one who remembers your advertising than that you’ll find lots of people who do. Let’s look at some numbers.
The average prime time rating today for network television is about 5 percent. Five per cent of the households in this country watch a given show on ABC, CBS or NBC. (For a 30-second commercial on one of these shows during 2009, the cost was about $300k.)
Telephoned the next day and given many, many cues and prompts—right down to the level of “Did you happen to see a commercial for Pepsi Cola last night while you were watching CSI – New York?”—16 percent of the people who say they watched the show will answer, yes, they saw the commercial.
In fact, many of those people who claim to have watched remember virtually nothing about the commercial when the researchers probe in more detail.
But, assuming that's not the case, that's still 16 percent of 5 percent, or only .8 percent (to be clear that is less than 1%) of the viewing audience who can recall seeing a specific commercial. Twenty-four hours later, something like 30 percent of that .8 percent evaporates as people forget what they’ve seen, and in another day, yet another 30 percent evaporates.
It turns out that, if a company runs a commercial during a prime time program on a given night, only about 1 percent of the night’s television audience remember anything about it the next day and by the end of the week virtually no one remembers it.
So, the television advertiser has two problems: A) getting people to watch the commercials in the first place, and B) having them recall something about the ones they actually did watch.
We are not saying, here, that recall is the significant measure: persuasion and likability are more important. But if the viewer remembers absolutely nothing about the commercial, the carry-over effect of persuasion and liking is not likely to exist. The sad story is that most people remember nothing.