October 20, 2021

Consumers React to 'As Bean on TV'

After I posted about Melissa Joan Hart's "As Bean on TV" commercial, Joseph Gray sent me some consumer research his new colleagues at iSpot.tv had conducted.

Some further background on the three-minute creative: Apparently it was created for National Coffee Day (9/29) and had one big airing on ABC during the reality show Bachelor in Paradise. iSpot estimates the airing cost $250,000 and generated approximately three million impressions.

Peter Daboll, former Ace Metrix CEO and now head of iSpot.tv Strategy & Insights, said that "given the unconventional and quirky approach," he wanted to examine what viewers thought of the ad. His team "maintains a database of 100,000+ television and digital ads across all categories (since 2010) with a nationally representative sample of at least 500 unique U.S. viewers of each ad," he explained. As a result, they can get "both quantitative and qualitative results across a wide array of demographic and consumer targets within 24-48 hours."

An example of the kind of finding they generate is the graphic above. It shows that "when asked to name the Single Best Thing about the creative, viewers mentioned the characters/celebrity (Ms. Joan Hart) at a disproportionate rate," according to the report.

Interesting stuff, but I was more curious about reactions to the 'DRTV parody' aspect of the creative. Digging into the report, I noticed that of the 25 or so representative comments included in the analysis, about one-third expressed the main reason Claude Hopkins still has a point:

  • “This was hilarious. I'd buy all three if it were a real infomercial. The characters played their parts incredibly well and the jokes were funny and the story was well paced.” - Female 21-35
  • “I'm guessing you can actually order all 3 coffees. I'm going to have to check on this...” - Female 36-49
  • “It was a good commercial but I didn't know what was real, what was the truth.” - Male 50+
  • “I didn't get if they were being serious about all the other things coffee can be used for [or] if it was a joke.” - Female 21-35
  • “I was intrigued by some of the uses for coffee grounds and wondered if they were real or not.” - Female 50+
  • “It was funny. I like Melissa. But was it a real ad or a joke? Who would want to buy coffee that removes tough things off pans?” - Female 36-49
  • “I was completely lost. Was this a spoof on commercials? Was this a real commercial? What was actually being advertised?” - Female 36-49

In summary: "Key consumer reactions focused on whether the parody was real or not," Peter said.

OK, so maybe getting people to order wasn't the real goal. Perhaps the advertiser felt that any direct sales would be gravy, and the real point was to get in front of three million consumers and remind them about these coffee brands. 

When it comes to achieving such goals, one of the key challenges is to cut through the clutter. A funny commercial six times longer than the standard commercial — one that also happens to feature a likable celebrity — seems like a good way to pull that off. In other words, people may not buy from clowns, but maybe they will remember the clowns and their funny props (in this case, the coffee)? 

"It was certainly an unconventional, if not risky, move to run such an ad in prime time," Peter agreed. "It was a highly polarizing ad, meaning it had its lovers and haters, with few in the middle. But certainly, it scored above norm in attention and information content."

Does that mean this approach was ultimately effective? To answer that question, consumer-research types use various "brand recall" metrics. As the name indicates, this is when you ask viewers to recall the name of the brand in the commercial they just saw. "Aided awareness" uses a multiple-choice question where the brand name is one of the choices. "Unaided awareness" uses a harder, fill-in-the-blank question. Peter's report included information about the latter.

"While not a conventional coffee/tea ad, the three-minute spot spurred positive intent among 46% of gen pop viewers," Peter reported. "Brand recall was, however, low even for Maxwell House at under 60% (the subject of a good portion of the ad). Unaided recall of Gevalia and Ethical Bean was negligible (fewer than a handful)."

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