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A brief observation about likability and interestingness of advertising.

"Likability" is a major ad quality to be achieved. Whether TV commercials and print ads are being liked or found to be irritating has for many years been a standard registration in the NIPO post-tests (similar to the procedures of Gallup & Robinson and of Mapes & Ross in the United States). The average results of several thousand surveys of viewers and readers show that "I liked this ad" is told to our interviewers over two and a half times as often as "It irritated and annoyed me." And, indeed, advertising that is liked performs better, both in perception and persuasion, than the commercials and print ads that irritate consumers (even though those that produce neither of these reactions function even less effectively).

After years of only inquiring about likability and its opposite we added another standard question. After the recognition part of every post-test interview we began asking respondents to choose between "I find this ad/commercial really interesting" or "not interesting." "Really interesting" turns out to be a much tougher attribute. For instance, for 4,629 print ads that were post-tested during the last decade, 51.1 percent were liked, while only 22.1 percent were felt to be really interesting.

The interesting ads score considerably higher in persuasion (Stapel, 1971). That measurement consists of asking purchase plans of nonusers of the product or service advertised before questions about ad recall or affect.

Data from a recent "Gallup Impact" survey of the ads in a women's magazine (Libelle, September 24, 1993) produce the following insights. As usual, the "interesting" scores amounted to slightly less than half of the likability figures. The results of 14 print ads that produced proved recall percentages over 10 percent were:
  * average recognition                         57%
  * average proved recall                       21%
  * average likability                          59%
  * average found interesting                   27%
  * average liked and found interesting         24%

In nine out of ten cases, likability was a prerequisite for interest, although the degree of interestingness as a proportion of being liked varies. The poorest performance was of an advertisement being liked by 55 percent, found interesting by only 11 percent, and 10 percent of all respondents both liking and judging it interesting.

The highest scoring ad (a full color double page), on the other hand, produced the following results of perception, likability, and interest for all respondents:
  * Recognition (after showing it
to the respondents)                      82%

  * Proved recall, correct description
of content (before magazine
is opened)                               51%

  * Liking the ad                        76%

  * Ads interesting                      32%

  * Liking and found interesting         30%

The persuasion indications were recorded among the majority of nonusers/owners before the perception items were registered, showing the following for nonusers/owners:
  * Recognition       80%
  * Proved recall     51%
  * Likability        72%
  * Interestingness   31%
  * Buying intent     24%

Buying intent was registered with 29 percent of those who liked the ad and among 36 percent who found it an interesting advertisement.

In another example from the same test, the perception scores of this same double page ad showed that a likable ad gains considerable attention and an interesting ad gains even more. After all, if you look it up in any dictionary, be it English, French, or Dutch, interest not only denotes "concentrated attention," but also "benefit, advantage, financial share of right," etc.
Table 1

Likability and "Interesting" Scores

                              Among respondents who

                Neither liked the ad, nor   Liked the   Found it
                found it interesting (%)      ad (%)    interesting (%)

Recognition                59                   68          87
Proved recall              30                   55          66

To sum up this observation, registering both liking and the degree of interest in both pre- and post-testing produces highly useful indicators concerning the creative efforts (and of course about the product or service itself that is being advertised).


Stapel, Jan. "Sales Effects of Print Ads." Journal of Advertising Research 11, 3 (1971): 32-36.
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Title Annotation:Observations
Author:Stapel, Jan
Publication:Journal of Advertising Research
Date:Mar 1, 1994
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