YOUR BRAIN ON COMMERCIALS: Fewer Folks Say TV Spots Insult Their Intelligence, Which May or May Not Be Good News

Video Storyboard Tests finds a significant decline between 1984 and 1992 in the percentage of people who say TV commercials insult their intelligence. In 1984, 32.5% of viewers surveyed said TV spots insult their intelligence. The figure has fallen fairly steadily since then (apart from an upward blip attributed to the ’88 elections) and stood at a mere 26.2% in 1992. Some people probably claim their intelligence is insulted even when it isn’t, simply as a way of asserting they’ve got some intelligence, in which case even the declining percentages are artificially high. Indeed, people in the media-conscious Northeast are the most likely to describe themselves as insulted. The number is also significantly higher for men (28.6%) than for women (23.6%). Assuming there’s been no decline in the Gross National Intelligence between ’84 and ’92, the downward trend sounds like a good thing. But is it really? In a summary of the findings, VST offers a cautionary note: While the insult ratio has declined, so have measures of positive attributes, ‘indicating growing consumer indifference to commercials.’ So, advertisers who still want to insult viewers’ intelligence will just have to try a little harder.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)