TV commercial ‘zapping’ – its driving factors (study)

If you’re in the business of advertising – especially TV advertising – you might be keen to identify the driving factors behind so-called ‘zapping’ (viewers changing channels with the specific intent of avoiding commercial breaks) A 2017 study in the Journal of Advertising Research presents an extensive analysis of the subject and pinpoints a ‘significant driver’ in such behaviour :

“The use of remote controls emerged as a significant driver of observed commercial zapping.”


More specific details can be found in the lead author’s (Dr Steve Dix) extensive thesis on the subject :

“Although this study does not attempt to identify the underlying motivation for using the remote control device, [RCD] results do confirm the importance of the RCD in driving channel switching. Notably this study confirms the findings of Danaher (1995) that the RCD is one of the most important factors influencing channel switching activity.“

What then, from the advertisers’ point of view, might be done to mitigate this behaviour – which has been going on for more than 40 years?

” Advertisers can restrict commercial zapping by limiting levels of irritation and repetition in their creative strategy and by restraining exposure in their scheduling strategy.”

See: ‘Predictors of Commercial Zapping During Live Prime-Time Television : An Observation-Based Study Identifies Factors That Drive TV Channel Switching’ by Stephen Richard Dix and Ian Phau in the Journal of Advertising Research, March 2017; volume 57, issue 1.

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