Unaided Recall Study

In August, 2000, results of the largest unaided recall study in the history of the television medium were released by the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau. These results provide the strongest statistical proof to date that cable is equal to the broadcast networks in primetime commercial effectiveness. 

Conducted by Nielsen Media Research for the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau, the recall study randomly surveyed 17,200 Adults 18+ by phone at home during primetime in April 2000. It is the follow-up to a smaller CAB/Nielsen survey conducted in February 2000 among 5,700 adults.

Among the key findings of the new nationwide telephone coincidental study: 

  • There is essentially no statistical difference between cable and broadcast network television on the basis of viewers' verified recall of commercials as well as their attentiveness to primetime programming. The study shows that a strong direct correlation exists between attentiveness levels and commercial recall.  
  • The percentage of cable viewers who stayed tuned during a commercial break (claimed commercial exposure) is about the same as broadcast network television, refuting the assumption by some that, in a multichannel environment, the ad-supported cable audience is more likely to channel surf to avoid commercials. 
  • Unaided recall is significantly impacted by commercial pod length and pod position. In general, shorter pod lengths and the first pod position command higher than average recall levels. (The study notes that these two variables are intertwined in raising or lowering recall levels, as opposed to having isolated effects). 
  • The unaided recall level of 15-second TV commercials is one-half that of :30s. 
  • Similarly, viewer recall of TV network on-air promos is one-half that of advertiser-placed product/service commercials. 

NOTE: Nielsen verified the recall responses after completion of the survey by running them against their Monitor Plus commercial logs. Since Monitor Plus captures only national spots, the study was confined to the verification of broadcast and cable network commercials-mentions of local commercials were excluded from the final tabulations. 


Download Unaided Recall Study (Phase 2) PDF 

Two characteristics distinguish the second phase from the first:

  • A marked increase in sample size – from 5,700 adults 18+ in February, to 17,200 in April. The tripling of sample size provides greater overall confidence and stability in the data, and allowed the segmentation of the data while still retaining healthy sample counts.
  • On-air tune-in promotional advertisements were explicitly captured. By doing so, it was possible to compare national product/service ads to on-air promotions. By capturing tune-in promotions, it was also possible to examine broader television research issues such as the impact of pod length and pod position on recall. 

Overall, the results are remarkably consistent with Phase 1 – that is, recall parity exists between broadcast and cable network television. Phase 1 is offered for download below: 


Download Unaided Recall Study (Phase 1) PDF

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