Various theories and models have attempted to explain how television advertisements influence consumers in their consumption-related decisions. The Behavioural and Communication Research Division of the Bureau of Market Research (BMR) conducted research investigating generational emotive response patterns using verbal and non-verbal measuring instruments.
The research follows a series of studies on consumers’ emotive response to television advertising conducted by the BMR in the past.
The measurement of emotions remains a contentious issue, even though they are acknowledged as a crucial factor in decisions taken because of being exposed to advertisements. In addition, television advertisements are often aimed at target markets spanning a range of age groups.
The realised sample consisted of 102 adults who view television, selected from three generations Millennials (mid 1980s-1992), X-ers (1968-1984) and Baby Boomers including the Silent generation (1929-1967). The research was conducted in Gauteng where the majority of South Africans who view television reside and the highest percentage of household expenditure takes place. A cross-sectional survey design was applied as data collection took place at a single point in time and in accordance with purposive disproportional quota sampling specifications.
To capture immediate, positive and negative emotive responses towards a pre-selected test advertisement, the study used three research instruments, namely the Self-Assessment Manikin (AdSAM), a non-verbal instrument consisting of three rows of manikins depicting three primary emotions, PrEmo, a nonverbal instrument consisting of 12 animated cartoon characters depicting six positive and six negative emotions and the List of Emotions (LoE), a verbal instrument consisting of 18 words denoting nine positive and nine negative emotions.
According to Prof. Pierre Joubert, director of the behavioural and communication research division at BMR, generational emotive differences were evident between the three adult generations.
Analyses based on all three measurement instruments indicated that Millennials and X-ers were inclined to express a different emotive profile than the older generations (Baby Boomers and Silent Generation). Baby Boomers found it easier to acknowledge higher levels of engagement with the test advertisement, but more difficult to resonate with emotions relating to control. No significant differences were, however, evident between generations on the pleasure dimension as all generations seem to have felt positively towards the test advertisement. The Baby Boomer generation, furthermore, differed from the other generations by displaying fewer negative and more positive emotions. The older generations’ emotive reactions therefore seem to indicate that positive emotional experiences are expressed in a more mature, genuine and authentic manner.
These findings also seem to confirm studies that have been done previously, reflecting that older individuals tend to purposefully seek to experience positive emotions and avoid or limit negative emotions. Verbatim responses to emotive reactions also reveal that participants’ level of understanding and being in touch with personal emotions seem to increase and mature as responses of positive emotions increase. This generation tends to indicate how they feel with greater confidence and conviction and expresses a need for advertising to reflect a lifestyle that is ‘dynamic, active and optimistic’. These findings substantiate the challenge that is faced by creative teams and marketers, namely the importance and complexity of one advertisement resonating emotively with different generations in one target market.
Non-verbal vs verbal tests
According to BMR researcher, Jacolize Poalses, the research also investigated whether it is advantageous to measure emotion in television advertisements by means of non-verbal measurement instruments as opposed to verbal, cognitive measurement instruments.
Responding to the LoE instrument requires participants to think about their feelings, resulting in ubiquitous cognitive processing. Due to the nature of the LoE scale used, participants are inclined to endorse a multitude of emotions, on average seven per respondent, which should be interpreted as either positive or negative and not necessarily according to an authentic felt emotion.
In contrast, the AdSAM instrument requires participants to project an immediate feeling on a non-numerical, nonverbal pictorial scale, thereby avoiding cognitive processing to a great extent. The PrEmo instrument, whilst predominantly a non-verbal emotive measure, appears to encompass a certain degree of analytical judgement and can be viewed as partly cognitive, partly reactive.
Therefore, taking the aforementioned information on the three measuring instruments into account, and although it was not the intention of this study to evaluate the effectiveness of the three research instruments against each other, the AdSAM instrument appears to render the most emotively authentic data regarding the manner in which participants from all ages react to a television advertisement in a way that is cost- and time effective, easy to understand and does not require any literacy.
Lastly, a participant’s general mood seems to permeate throughout the responses to the test advertisement, which could be indicative of the pervasive nature of general mood in reacting to visual stimuli. Dr. Calne’s statement, that ‘the essential difference between emotion and reason is that emotion leads to action while reason leads to conclusions’ (Weisnewski 2006:1) appears fitting. Although verbal measures can represent many distinct aspects of emotion, they do not produce a true dichotomy between affect and cognition because they too require cognitive processing.
According to Joubert and Poalses, all advertisements attempt to influence consumers’ behaviour. However, this study concludes that the rating instrument used to determine participants’ emotive reactions to a television advertisement, whether verbal or non-verbal, could influence the manner in which participants indicate their true reaction to the advertisement, whether emotive or cognitive, and as a result thereof determine the way in which they make consumer decisions about the product or service being advertised.
The report, ‘Non-verbal Measurement of Emotive Reaction to Television Advertisements across South African Generations’ is available from the Bureau of Market Research, Unisa.