The Impact of Ad Breaks

TAWNY and HMKW* join forces for new pilot study.

Ad breaks and placement
© Hornbach


* Hochschule für Medien, Kommunikation und Wirtschaft



How are we affected by commercial breaks?

In theory, this question has been widely discussed on many occasions. Most studies came to the conclusion that viewers are annoyed by advertising - both by entire ad breaks as well as interrupting video ads.


However, when speaking about the effectiveness of ad breaks, different theories have been proposed to date: On the one hand, the excitation transfer theory suggests that excitement created within a movie or video can have a positive impact on how the ad is perceived by the viewer. On the other hand, following the contrast hypothesis, movies demand most of our cognitive capabilities. Thus, the user's ability to pay attention and process advertisement decreases (Friedrichsen & Jenzowsky, 1999).


Now, TAWNY and HMKW conducted a new study to analyze the impact of commercial breaks from a new angle - using TAWNY's Emotion AI in combination with a traditional self-assessment survey.


The participants of the study were instructed to watch a movie trailer of the latest John Wick blockbuster. For half of the group, the trailer was interrupted by a 30-second Hornbach video ad. The two groups were randomly assigned. 


Using the TAWNY Emotion Analytics Platform, we examined four topics specifically. First, we wanted to find out how a commercial break impacts the viewers' happiness. In addition, to prove the emotional interruption caused by the advertisement, we took a closer look at the standard deviation in the users' overall mood (represented by "valence"). Finally, focusing on "arousal", both the excitation transfer (emotional impact of the ad on the movie trailer), as well as the time on task effect (comparing both groups to rule out the "time" variable), were investigated.,


"An ad break doesn't always have a negative emotional impact."


What did we find out?

To break it down for you: A commercial break can, in fact, be arousing and exciting. And no, it doesn't always have a negative impact. Instead, how the viewers are affected by advertising depends on the content of the ad. And, as mentioned in previous literature, we could witness strong interdependencies between the ad and the context it is placed in.


Last but not least, the study again suggests the predictive potential of Emotion AI when we want to determine likability, brand recall, or advertising impact. How? Read it in the study!



Pilot Study Cover

Want to get all the insights and results from our study? 

Download it here! 


Download study


*The study is published in German*

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