ISSUE NO. 67 07/12/12

It turns out that humor works better to engage shoppers even during recessions, according to research Nielsen conducted between 2006-2011. In the five years of the study, 4,000 packaged goods commercials were evaluated for effectiveness during a recession as well as before and after. In terms of appeal and likeability, ad recall and purchase intent, ads that used humor resonated more with consumers. This was true even during the height of the recession when it might be expected that shoppers would be more concerned with price- and promotions-focused messages. In fact, for the two years that the recession was at its worst (2008 and 2009), price-driven ads scored only 73; a full 27 points below the average of 100. On the other hand, during this same time period, humorous ads scored as high as 133, for a difference of 60 total points.

However, the study found a distinction between price- and promotion-focused ads and value-centric ads. Consumers showed more interest in ads that went beyond price to demonstrate value with benefits like convenience and affordability. During the recessionary years, value ads jumped 19 points in effectiveness, from 88 to 107.
"While a humorous storyline was the top driver for each period, suggesting in good times and bad consumers like to laugh, the real surprise was the low scores ads focused on price and promotion received, even during the height of the recession," said James Russo, VP for global consumer insights at Nielsen. "Contrary to what many leading companies might have thought."

Any research that sheds light on what shoppers find appealing about ads is worthwhile. In this case, the long duration of the study makes for compelling results. The fact that shoppers show a marked preference for humorous messages is particularly useful. During tough economic times when you are tempted to use ads for letting shoppers know about prices or specific promotions, think again. You are better off with a funny ad or one that demonstrates an overall value message, or both.

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"Ads About Value, Not Prices and Promotions, May Work Best in Recession," Ad Age, 6/21/12 or see attached

advertising, humor, research, value messages

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