Measuring the Effectiveness of Comedy in Generating Positive Audience Engagement

How GfK helped measure the return on advertisement investment and audience engagement for Comedy Central

By GfK, a leading worldwide market research company, on behalf of Comedy Central


Understanding the power of laughter in advertising

It is widely recognised that laughter is beneficial in many ways to people’s lives, from reducing pain, stress and blood pressure, to influencing people at a subconscious level. Comedy Central wished to demonstrate, using facial coding, that a comedy environment creates a particularly conducive environment for advertising and even more importantly, that it can generate a positive response to advertising content at a subconscious level.


Sampling and innovative facial coding tool

The innovative GfK’s EMO Scan™ has been developed to capture facial movement via a webcam, which meant that respondents could watch the material in the natural viewing environment of their own home. The advertising sequence comprised two global ads (for Volkswagen and Coca Cola) and three local ads but reflecting the same categories in each market.  The ‘funny’ and ‘serious’ content had to be of equally high quality and of universal interest. With a sample of 250 respondents in 9 countries, this led to a total of over 12,150,000 different data points for comparison, one of the largest biometric datasets ever captured.

So what?

Improved audience engagement in advertising

EMO Scan™ clearly demonstrated a higher level of positive engagement with the ‘funny’ content. Across the full extent of the advertising sequence the research found an average +57% uplift in positive engagement for those who had watched this ‘funny’ content.

Using this technology allowed Comedy Central to build on existing understanding of the role of humour to demonstrate that audiences who laugh while watching comedy programmes are more engaged with and receptive to the surrounding advertising. This led Comedy Central to offer clear implications for marketers and improved advertising activities.