Addressable TV Advertising’s Advantages

  • Understanding the Brain’s Processing Preferences
  • System1 and Finecast’s Research

Once valued more for its ability to achieve incremental reach by finding hard-to-find audiences, addressable TV has emerged as a most innovative and valuable media. But critics have raised their cautionary flags, noting that traditionally, addressable digital platforms have shown evidence of lower attention, lower emotion and lower business effect. Are they capable of producing brand-building effects?

In fact, recent audience insights and measurements of attention reveal that addressable TV attracts and commands greater attention than other addressable media channels. And now, new research from System1 and Finecast, GroupM Nexus’s addressable TV solution, finds that TV advertising elicits more intense feelings, more positive emotional engagement and stronger predicted business effects among addressable audiences. In essence, addressable TV makes audiences happy. Read on to learn more about the fundamentals of brand-building advertising and our joint study, “Addressable//Advantage.”

Understanding the Brain’s Processing Preferences

System1’s chief innovation officer Orlando Wood has extensively researched how the left-brain and right-brain process things differently, specifically in the context of advertising. In his books Lemon and Look out, he highlights that the two hemispheres of the brain don’t actually do different things, they do things differently.

The right brain is capable of understanding metaphors, time, space and depth; is more responsive to music; is focused on connections, relationships and the whole picture; and is vigilant, self-aware and broad. Meanwhile, the left brain favours narrow, short and focused attention, so it prefers abstractness, flatness, the written word, rhythm and other literal features in advertising.

As Wood explains, “For brand-building advertising insights, it is helpful to think of your viewer as being essentially uninterested in your category or brand, probably looking elsewhere, their mind on other things.” His advice is to attract and maintain broad-beam attention, and to do so, advertising must play to the interests of the right brain.

Features that attract broad-beam attention include:

  • A clear sense of place​
  • One scene unfolding with progression​
  • Characters with agency (voice, movement, expression)​
  • Implicit, unspoken communication (knowing glances)​
  • Dialogue​
  • Distinctive accents​
  • Play on words or subversion of language​
  • Set in the past (costumes & sets)​
  • Reference to other cultural works (pastiche/parody)​
  • Music with melody

Unfortunately, left-brain features dominate advertising today. A study of 100 UK and 100 US TV ads selected at random from Automotive, Financial, FMCG, Health & Beauty and Tech sectors​ found that the average number of left-brain features in ads is higher than right-brain features in both regions.

System1 and Finecast’s Research

We know that incorporating more right-brain features helps TV advertisers drive long-term growth. Can advertisers also expect to achieve the same outcomes with addressable TV?  System1 and Finecast sought to understand the different responses to TV advertising for a broad audience and a more targeted audience – the addressable audience. System1 measured the audience response to TV advertising from 46 of Finecast’s largest advertisers in the UK, US, Canada and Australia.

To test each ad, we recruited a quantitative sample panel of 150 people from the intended target audience for the advertiser, the addressable audience. We then recruited another 150 people who reflect the nationally representative population of adults – the broad audience. System1’s Test Your Ad platform measures viewers’ emotional responses to advertising and the intensity of these emotions and our audience measurement platform records more in-depth data.

Ultimately, the goal of brand-building advertising is to leave audiences feeling happy – even better if they feel a strong degree of happiness – as this correlates with a stronger business effect in the real world. We found that TV advertising elicits more intense feelings, and more positive emotions among the addressable audience, with 7% greater happiness and 6% fewer neutral reactions.

Additionally, the study observed a very encouraging trend for the long-lasting effect of television advertising among addressable audiences. System1’s Star rating, validated by the IPA, predicts growth in market share over a period of 6 months to 3 years. The study found that TV ads shown to addressable audiences averaged 3.0-Stars (predicting “Good” market share growth, on a scale from 1.0 to 5.9), ranking them in the top 33% of all ads. In comparison, TV ads averaged 2.4-Stars (a “Modest” result) among the broad, nationally representative audience.

According to our market research, the highest-performing ads among Finecast’s addressable audience were more likely to include four right-brain features: music with discernible melody, people touching, a clear sense of place and humour. So, how can brands leverage these findings? With humour, for example, brands can leverage addressable TV advertising and develop creative that speaks to audiences of different ages, life stages or sub-cultures. And with music, brands can set an ad to different soundtracks native to different cultures to better engage with addressable audiences. These are just a few of the ways in which the different creative elements and addressable TV can be leveraged together.

There are many more insights on addressable TV and how it can drive positive business effects for advertisers. Access the full report, “Addressable//Advantage” from System1 and Finecast, complete with in-depth case studies from around the world, a closer look at Orlando Wood’s research on left and right brain features, and more.


At System1, we help the world’s largest advertisers make confident creative decisions that lead to transformational business results. Our powerful ad testing platform (Test Your Ad) and our idea testing platform (Test Your Idea) help brands predict the commercial potential of ads and ideas. Complementing TYA and TYI is Test Your Brand, our brand testing tool which measures the impact of ads and ideas on brand health, ensuring long-term brand growth through predictive success.

Get in touch or book a demo with one of our experts to learn more.