News Avoidance Is Misguided

Brands are pulling ads from News and other places where they could be next to coronavirus stories. Today top journalism professor Jeff Jarvis and Simulmedia’s Matt Collins discussed this topic and its harmful impact on professional journalism, already eroded economically by the Internet. In doing so they touched on a number of ways this also hurts the brands, aligning with my recent posts about brands staying present, standing alongside the human race in the crisis.

I first realized News gets higher attention than the rest of television early in my career when I did what was then the largest telephone coincidental study ever (250,000 national sample) and asked a last-commercial immediate recall question. The average accurate recall (sponsor identification) for TV was 18% but for News 45%.

The worry that brands have however is not about attention or recall, it’s about sentiment. Given how much of the News is bad news, how receptive will consumers be when they are brought down? The answer, according to many studies that ARF EVP Research Horst Stipp curated in his landmark Context Effect Metanalysis, is Mood Repair. If an ad has an upbeat mood, it will actually have greater effect if preceded by a mood deflator. Horst also pointed out to me in conversation that of course most ads are upbeat by design, “they are not selling loss, they are selling gain”.

The most recent research relevant to ad appearance near coronavirus content came to me yesterday courtesy of Mike Follett of Lumen Research in the UK, which shows that being next to coronavirus content is actually a plus in terms of eye tracking data.

Net net recommendation: do not avoid coronavirus context, but make sure your ad that appears there is about the heroism of the human race, with a few seconds at the end about what tangible donations or efforts your company is making to stand beside the human race is its time of need.

Stay well, stay present,