To Zap or Not to Zap: A Study of the Determinants of Channel Switching During Commercials

Siddarth, S.; Chattopadhyay, Amitava
June 1998
Marketing Science;1998, Vol. 17 Issue 2, p124
Academic Journal
Abstract We present a conceptual framework to describe the commercial zapping phenomenon and use it to identify factors that influence channel switching during commercials. Drawing on previous research, published reports of practitioner gut feel, interventions used by advertisers to reduce channel switching, and proprietary studies reported in the published literature, we describe how these variables might potentially affect the decision to zap a commercial. We use a latent class approach to model the impact of the identified factors on two aspects of the switching decision--whether or not a commercial is zapped (modeled with a binary logit model) and, conditional on a zap having taken place, the number of seconds that the commercial was watched before being zapped (modeled within the proportional hazards framework). The model is estimated on telemeter data on commercial viewing in two categories (spaghetti sauce and window cleaners) obtained from a single-source, household scanner panel.The results from the empirical analysis show that households can be grouped into two segments. The first, which consists of about 35% of households in the sample, is more zap-prone than the second. For this "zapping segment" the probability of zapping a commercial is lower for households who make more purchases in the product category. Also, zapping shows a J-shaped response to previous exposures to the commercial, with the associated zapping elasticity reaching its minimum value at around 14 exposures and increasing rapidly thereafter. This finding suggests that advertisers should be cautious not to use media schedules that have excessive media weight or that emphasize frequency over reach.We found that zapping probabilities for ads aired around the hour and half-hour marks to be significantly higher than for other pod locations. Based on these results, we argue that prices for advertising pods located around the hour/halfhour marks should be between 5% to 33% lower than those i...


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