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This article uses a case history from MTV to examine the role that engagement with programming plays in the performance of embedded advertising. A standard technique for measuring emotional engagement with TV commercials, the Ameritest Picture Sorts, was used in an online study of 600 respondents to study audience engagement with the two-hour-long MTV Video Music Award show. Utilizing this simple nonverbal metric, along with conventional verbal metrics of advertising performance and brand perceptions, the authors show that programming has a “magnifier effect” on some advertising metrics, such as likeability and motivation—but not others, such as recall. Importantly, the strongest advertisements benefit more from the magnifier effect than weaker ones—reaffirming the central importance of creativity in advertising effectiveness.
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