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BROADCAST NEWS of April 1961

Die ausgewählten Artikel stammen aus der RCA Firmen-Zeitung vom April 1961 - Die Einführung beginnt hier.



A Researcher Looks at Color T elevision - Notes Increased Effectiveness of Commercials, But Wonders Why Products Most Sensitive to Color are Undergoing the Least Amount of Preparation for Color - by HORACE S. SCHWERIN, President, Schwerin Research Corporation

Is color tv more effective than black and white in tv commercials? Is the difference measurable? What special problems does the color medium impose on the television advertiser? What has the performance been up till now, and what is the shape of things to come in commercial color television?

In undertaking to answer these and other questions that should be, but too often are not, raised by the advertisers who will be taking the plunge into color, "Schwerin Research Corporation" is relying on nearly two years of actual pretesting experience. Our studies embrace more than a dozen different products and services, and roughly one hundred individual commercials.

Color Commercials are More Effective

Are commercials more effective in color than black and white? Our answer is an emphatic yes. That affirmative will have to be qualified, and the greater part of these remarks devoted to qualifications rather than bald affirmation. But the outstanding fact disclosed by our pretesting research is that color, when it is used properly, enjoys a tremendous advantage over the same commercials in monochrome.

Late in 1955, Schwerin Research Corporation began pretesting RCA Victor appliance commercials in "compatible" color. The same commercials were audience-tested in both full-color and black-and-white versions in identical control shows.

Out of these tests, which continued throughout 1956 and are still going on, emerged the central finding that - all other things being the same - color increased the effectiveness of the commercials over their black-and-white versions by an average of 100% (see Fig. 1).

Other principal findings from our pretesting inquiries might conveniently be summarized here:

  • (1) Natural settings have proved more effective than "showcase" settings;
  • (2) Distracting use of color diminishes the effectiveness of the commercial;
  • (3) Commercials in the middle range of effectiveness benefit most from the use of color;
  • (4) Color helps certain product types more than others;
  • (5) Women are more influenced than men by color.


Popular Illusion Re Color TV

The first big illusion to go will be the all too prevalent attitude held by advertisers of products in the sensory field - foods, fabrics, etc. - that merely splashing color on their products will trigger the viewer to rush to the store and lay in a supply.

This misconception brings to mind a poetaster who approached us once for an opinion about her latest poetic effusion. It was an utterly pedestrian piece of versification; hack work cut from the whole cloth. The only imperishable thing about it was the terse reminder appended at the bottom of the paper: "Add colorful imagery."

A good poem is obviously not made by rhyming some words, then stuffing the result with colorful imagery. Neither is an effective color commercial made by simply waving a rainbow over a black-and-white rendition of the product. It seems almost self-evident that products with sensory appeal such as foods, beverages, apparel and fabrics stand to gain the most from color commercials.

One would expect products in the sensory field to be girding for the competitive struggle that is sure to develop as color tv comes of age. But the surprising fact is that those products that have the most to gain from color are doing the least experimenting.

Advertising Paradox

Figure 2 illustrates this paradox in terms of our experience. Products with taste appeal are doing only about one-fifth as much research in color as they are in black and white. And they account for only a small fraction of all color-commercial tests.

In other words, those products that presumably have least to gain are doing the most experimenting in color. By pretesting, the nonsensory products will be able to reap a rich harvest from color, particularly in the early phases. The RCA Victor example is a good case in point.

Meanwhile, the advertisers with sensory-appeal products are holding aloof from pretesting in color, reasoning (wrongly) that at the right moment they can leap into the medium with a "natural."

When color does open up in earnest, everyone in the food field will jump simultaneously. And in the face of extremely heavy competition, the advertiser who has not learned the potentialities and limitations of color will be lost in a kaleidoscopic shuffle.

Natural settings have proved more effective than "showcase" settings.

The most successful color commercials tested to date have been those which employed natural, recognizable backgrounds and settings. This was one of the major findings to emerge from the RCA studies.

Distracting use of color diminishes the effectiveness of the commercial.

One such commercial made use of a large number of scene-and-idea changes: it was too "busy" in its video. The black-and-white version reflected this confusion by securing from the audience a change on the post choice of only three per cent, which was well below average for this particular advertiser.

When it was done in color, the felony was compounded. The commercial became a many-tinted chaos that failed to move any viewers to that product. In addition to making the commercial ineffective, color also reduced sales point recall 40 per cent.

Color helps certain product types more than others.

In general, the more familiar the product is the less benefit it will reap from color, while the new brand will probably gain a great deal from multichromatic exposure.

Commercials in the middle range of effectiveness benefit most from the use of color.

Neither extremely weak nor particularly strong black-and-white versions pick up as much effectiveness with color as do moderately effective commercials. The monochrome commercial that is highly effective in its own right can expect some additional value from color.

On the other hand, if a commercial cannot hold its own in black-and-white, the color-splashing technique will not do it much good.


This matter of "compatible effectiveness," of creating commercials that are successful in both mediums, has already been solved by some advertisers through pretesting. It is they who will have clear sailing as the transition from black-and-white to color gains momentum, leaving the expensive method of trial and error to their less foresighted brethren.

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