Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

On-Air Promotion Effectiveness for Programs of Different Genres, Familiarity, and Audience Demographics

Academic journal article Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

On-Air Promotion Effectiveness for Programs of Different Genres, Familiarity, and Audience Demographics

Article excerpt

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As the number of competitors in the television industry swells, the battle for audience attention becomes increasingly aggressive, making it more important to test assumptions about audience behavior that dictate industry practices. For the industry, on-air promotion's function has become more important in generating program sampling, maintaining audience size, and branding program services. Some of the structural characteristics of on-air promos that influence ratings are largely understood and accepted, but how the program genre and the demographics of the targeted audience interact with other variables is unclear. Most previous studies have looked for the global factors affecting the overall salience of promotion and have not been particularly concerned with the impact of audience targeting (see Eastman & Bolls, 2000). Eastman and Newton's (1998) salience theory predicts the impact of several factors (e.g., promotion frequency, distance, construction, clutter, placement) on program ratings, but does not explain how the impact of those factors might vary from programs of different genres, new or returning programs, or programs targeted to different gender or age groups.

Salience Theory and Structural Variables

Eastman and her colleagues (Eastman & Billings, in press; Eastman & Boils, 2000; Eastman & Newton, 1998; Perse, 2000) have articulated the view that certain structural factors and perhaps some content factors can increase or reduce the effectiveness of program promotion. The theory is that these variables can increase the prominence of program promotion by associative priming of mental models of television programs and thus enhance the promoted programs' chances of attracting audiences. In other words, a lifetime of experience with television creates a multitude of mental models of programs, and media messages can prime these memories and make them accessible. Because emotions that are linked to subsequent behavior can influence later behavior by priming aggression, stereotyping, and other social judgments (Roskos-Ewoldsen, Roskos-Ewoldsen, & Carpentier, 2002), it follows that an arousing television promo that urges viewers to tune in at a later time to experience a program might well have impact on some viewers, but the difficulty is that promotion typically generates only modest emotional reactions (Eastman, Newton, & Bolls, in press). Moreover, decades of research into television program audience size has demonstrated the powerful impact of scheduling practices, such as blocking similar shows, or placing new programs between established shows (see Eastman, 1998; Webster & Phalen, 1997, on scheduling strategies).

Drawing on both advertising and programming research to investigate promotional messages, Eastman and Newton have focused on promos' scheduling and other structural characteristics. They have posited a greater quantity of specific attributes--those that make promos prominent in their environments--is more likely to have an impact on viewing than lower quality attributes or the absence of those attributes. These structural attributes prime the viewer's later recall of associative judgments. For example, previous studies in both advertising and promotion have shown the importance of reduced clutter in a message's environment, the advantages of first and last positioning (primacy and recency), the value of specific over generic messages, and the size of the audience the message reaches. However, perhaps because program promotion differs from product advertising (the former having the goal of encouraging viewing rather than product sales), questions remain about the exact contribution of some structural variables. Previous studies have had conflicting findings about the number of promotional spots per program (frequency), the number of programs promoted in a promo (construction), and the amount of time between the promotion and the program's airing (distance). …

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