TV-Induced Emotions and Online Word-of-Mouth Advertising

Communication graphic

Social media channels such as Twitter have emerged as the de-facto platforms for information sharing and communication, including during many television programs. Social chatter has added entertainment value and fun for many of us while we watch fan favorites like Dancing with the Stars, The Voice, and the Super Bowl.

This convergence of TV programs and real-time social media responses even has a name: social TV.

But social TV can provide far more than entertainment value to viewers. In fact, it can generate quantifiable insights for companies that promote their brands during television shows.

“Social TV can be incredibly valuable to marketers, since it can result in a massive amount of online word-of-mouth advertising for their brands,” says Cheng Chen, Assistant Professor of Information Technology Management. “This chatter creates free exposure for the brand online, extends the reach of TV ad campaigns to the online space, and offers real-time feedback to advertisers to examine the effectiveness of their ads.”

Cheng, along with research colleagues Tinting Nian of the University of California-Irvine and Yuheng Hu of the University of Illinois at Chicago, have studied the interplay between TV programs, advertising, and the online word-of-mouth generated by the ads during the programs.

Specifically, they examined this interplay through the lens of Twitter posts related to ads aired during the Super Bowl, one of the most watched annual sporting events with an average of 110 viewers, and one of the largest advertising events in the world.

To do so, they constructed a multisource dataset that included all 52 ads aired during 2016 matchup between the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers, with an astonishing 1.2 million viewer tweets about the ads and their associated brands. They measured both the intensity of the emotions that were communicated, as well as whether the emotions were positive or negative. They also examined at what point in the game the tweets were made (for example, after a touchdown or a turnover) and what emotion the advertisements themselves evoked. They discerned between team fans and non-team fans by determining whether the tweeter followed one of the two teams playing or not.

Cheng said that they wanted to explore two questions. First, a TV program may provoke emotions from its viewers, so to what extent do these emotions impact the online word-of-mouth about the ads, both in terms of emotional intensity (arousal) and the extent to which they were positive or negative (valence)?

Second, since the advertisement itself can also evoke emotions from its viewer, to what extent do the tv-program-induced emotions interact with the ad-induced emotions to jointly affect the online word-of mouth about the ads?

What they found was that a tv-program-induced emotion “shock” – be it positive or negative – significantly increased the level of intensity of the tweet about the ad. Interestingly, they found the effects to be more prominent with negative emotion shocks – with the “team fan” group perceiving ads less favorably than the “indifferent fan” group in these cases.

They also found that coupling the tv-program-induced emotions with ad-induced emotions significantly affected the intensity and favorability of the statements expressed toward the ad.

Cheng says that their study suggests that advertisers and TV networks should have a heightened awareness of the emotional states of ads and the programming content they are associated with.

“Currently, media buying strategies mostly focus on the order of ad positions in program breaks,” he says. “Networks may want to optimally allocate ads into different programs or different positions in a certain program, depending on the ad content and the emotional context induced by the program.”

He notes that their findings might not be as helpful in informing live TV events with unpredictable emotional shocks, such as the Super Bowl. But where strategic placement is feasible, as with pre-produced programs, aligning ad emotion with TV content emotion could render some very profitable synergies in the online word-of-mouth advertising space.

Publication of the study is forthcoming in Information Systems Research, “Examining the Impact of Television-Program-Induced Emotions on Online Word-of-Mouth toward Television Advertising,” by Tingting Nian, Yuheng Hu, and Cheng Chen.

Research@ LubarFaculty scholarship in the Lubar School of Business spans the business fields and beyond through both theoretical and applied research that is published in leading journals.  Here are some of our faculty’s most recent publications:
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