Chewing Negates Effects Of Movie Theater Advertising
October 14, 2013

Eating Popcorn Can Negate The Effects Of Movie Theater Advertising

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Munching on popcorn while catching a flick at the local movie theater can make you immune to the effects of big-screen advertisements, researchers from the University of Cologne in Germany have discovered.

Writing in the latest edition of the Journal of Consumer Psychology, the study authors explain that it isn’t the salty snack itself, but rather the act of chewing that interferes with the pre-movie commercials typically aired at cinemas and theaters.

“The reason why adverts manage to imprint brand names on our brains is that our lips and the tongue automatically simulate the pronunciation of a new name when we first hear it,” Philip Oltermann of The Guardian explained. “Every time we re-encounter the name, our mouth subconsciously practices its pronunciation.”

However, the investigators report that the process of consuming popcorn (or candy, or any other type of food, for that matter) interrupts this so-called “inner speech,” eliminating the repetition effect typically required to firmly establish a new brand name into the consciousness of the advertisement’s target audience.

Researchers Sascha Topolinski, Sandy Linder, and Anna Freudenberg conducted a pair of field studies to test their theories. In each, subjects were invited to an actual movie theater and were shown a block of commercials followed by a motion picture. The commercials were for actual, existing products. However, the goods being advertised were unfamiliar to the German audience to which they were being shown.

Half of the study participants were given popcorn, which they were free to eat during the entire session. The remaining subjects were only given a sugar cube at the beginning of the session. This was done so that they could experience some type of sweet taste, but the sugar quickly dissolved. As a result, the mouth muscles of these men and women were free to simulate the pronunciation of the brand names.

In the first study, the 96 total participants were interviewed one week after the initial experiment. They were shown images of different products, half of which were actually featured during the pre-film ads while the others were invented goods. Subjects were asked to identify which products they liked, and the researchers measured their physiological responses.

“Those participants who had only received a sugar cube and could thus internally train the brands’ articulation demonstrated that there was a clear advertising effect,” the university said. “They preferred advertised over novel products and also showed positive physiological responses of familiarity for advertised products. However, those participants who had eaten popcorn while watching the commercials one week before showed no such advertising effect.”

During the second study, another 188 participants were recruited, and each of them underwent the same popcorn and commercial viewing experiment as before. However, this time the researchers were asked for actual consumer choices the following week. They were given a small amount of money and were asked to select one type of skin lotion that they could purchase and donate to a charitable organization of their choice.

“Specifically, they were presented with six different lotions (with different brand names) and six charity foundations with fictitious names,” the institution reported. “Three of the lotions and three of the charity foundations had been advertised in the earlier cinema session. Participants who had eaten a sugar cube chose the advertised products more often: they were more likely to buy the advertised lotions and to donate their money for the advertised charities. However, the participants who had eaten popcorn did not show this effect.”

“The mundane activity of eating popcorn made participants immune to the pervasive effects of advertising,” Topolinski told Oltermann. “This finding suggests that selling candy in movie theaters actually undermines advertising effects, which contradicts present marketing strategies. In the future, when promoting a novel brand, advertising clients might consider trying to prevent candy being sold before the main movie.”