Fast forward ads work - it's official

A couple of nice chaps from a research agency called duckfoot popped by to see me recently with some research they had done on advertising and PVRs.

Real research mind - that is possibly rather helpful.

They have shown that ads watched at up to 30X normal as effective as ads watched at normal speed at driving brand recognition and likeability (when you have already seen that ad). But more than that their research shows that fast forwarded ads can be more effective at this than ads watched at normal speed because we process the information in a less conscious way.

A weird but wonderful study.

Ask them to tell you about it.


My Dear Chap,

These Duck fellows were just giving you a load of old LIP.

'Low Involvement Processing' enjoyed a brief flowering as 'the future of advertising' in 2001 with the publication of ‘THE HIDDEN POWER OF ADVERTISING – how low involvement processing influences the way we choose brands’, by Robert Heath, published by ADMAP June 2001, 124 p.p., price £45.00.

It uses a bunch of borderline neuroscience to explain how messages are absorbed through less engaged parts of the brain than hitherto imagined.

None of this is news to any stage hypnotist or NLP practitioner.

(Here's a free demo. Raise your forefingers in front of your eyes at arms length. Keeping your gaze fixed strictly ahead move your arms outwards in an arc until you are no longer aware of your raised fingers. Now check your position and you'll realise that your peripheral vision seems to cover more than 180 degrees - ie , you can see behind yourself. I spent some time with a dodgy agency researching such phenomena and ended up talking to a tracker in Oregon who swore he was teaching US Special Forces to see behind themselves.

He also claimed to be involved in Remote Viewing - God help us)

This isn't strictly what LIP is about but I suppose it illustrates the useful tricks that can be played with the edges of the sensorium.

More amusing, is the fate of LIP in the Ad industry. It could have been the most intriguing and powerful tool for increasing effectiveness ever - had it not been for one simple fact. If you buy into LIP you move inexorably to the point where them most effective advertising is ubiquitous trackside or small posters in busy areas with a short message - 'Buy Guinness' - in a nice clear typeface on a clean and contrasting background.

Not, as you can imagine, popular with the creative dept, or, indeed anyone who beklieved that advertisng was a higher calling than weilding the pastebrush as a flyposter.

This would not have been a problem for media or, at a stretch, PR agencies who could both have amde tremendous mileage out of LIP but the book seems to have been ignored by both. (It is incredibly turgid and cripplingly expensive)

Perhaps this is fortunate

Posted by: Tim at July 6, 2005 01:56 PM

Nice explanation :)

Its interesting watching ads that do work over the speed increase. For example, watching a slow motion Budweiser ad at 6x speed makes it seem almost actual speed.. and therefore hugely interesting.

Posted by: Rob Mortimer at July 6, 2005 08:16 PM

In reply to Tim’s entertaining yet rather damning critique of the study on fast forward study ads I carried out that Richard kindly posted.

Firstly Tim please do get in touch ( as I would love to have the opportunity to take you through the study and show you the empirical evidence we generated proving fast forward ads have an affect on the viewer.

Also if you have time I would be very willing to take you though the, not insubstantial, 25 years of academic research behind this phenomenon (called the Mere Exposure effect, please feel free to look it up, Robert Zajonc, American Psychologist 1980, is the most famous account) all of which has been published in highly respected and rigorously peer reviewed academic journals.

Sadly you see Tim, I have to report that this study was not born of any ‘borderline neuroscience’ but a very well established cognitive psychological phenomenon, one which I spent a good 7 years of my former life as an academic researcher studying. (Though I absolutely share your concern that in recent months certain claims have been made of my beloved discipline that I think would make even the most liberal minded academic cringe with embarrassment).

Anyway in this research project the methodology I used to study the effect of fast forward ads was essentially the same as the one I published in my PhD thesis, and I can assure you it is entirely academically valid, I should know I spent 3 hours in my Viva being grilled by a Professor about its validity!! Anyway the work we did demonstrated that ads at fast forward had a positive effect on both ad and brand liking.

The reason why they have this positive emotional effect on the viewer is that we automatically (and unconsciously) store the emotional equity of something when we encounter it (check out Descartes’ Error by Damasio). Then, when we experience it again this emotional equity spontaneously returns to us. It appears that fast forward ads acted as a catalyst to prompt this emotional equity, which, as nearly all ads are designed to be pleasant to watch was positive, hence producing increased ad and brand liking.

The natural conclusion from this was that the best way to be immune to fast forwarding was to produce the most creatively pleasing ad moment for the viewer, when viewed at normal speed. Then when viewed at fast forward, the flow of positive emotion retained from the pleasurable previous encounter would lead to the greatest shifts in positive emotions for both ad and brand.

I think the debate on Low Attention (Involvement) processing is one for another day, however Robert Heath’s assertion that ads will have an influence even when people are not fully attending to them is one I support whole heartedly, simply because they do. There are many really common examples of us being affected by something even though we are not paying attention to it. Just think of a party, you can be engrossed in a conversation with a friend, listening intently to what they are saying, yet still pick up if your name is mentioned in a conversation nearby despite the fact that at no point were you intentionally listening out for it.

The thing is that no matter what we are concentrating on there is always a part of our attention that is absorbing information from many other sources around us. For example the next time you are in your car, you will unknowingly be judging your speed, predicting the behaviour of other vehicles, indicating, keeping the steering wheel in the right position, checking the rear view mirror, changing the radio channel in fact any number of different things all at the same time. Moreover you will find if you have a friend with you who starts a conversation this will not lead to a catastrophic diversion of all your attention from these tasks resulting in you and your car becoming intimately acquainted with the nearest tree. We are very sophisticated creatures indeed.

So I extend again the very warm invitation for you to get in touch any time and have the opportunity to show you the proof fast forward ads work.

Posted by: Alastair Goode at August 18, 2005 11:20 AM

By the way Alistair is talking about this reseach at an expert briefing session i am chairing at this year's MRS conference. I think it is on the 24th March in the afternoon.

Posted by: richard at January 22, 2006 09:34 PM