The Psychology of the Commercial Break 

Commercial breaks have changed a lot over the years. But they continue to impact us on subconscious levels.   

More than a bathroom break.

Global society is packed with commercials. They are a part of our lives. Many of us may downplay commercials, but in fact they are an essential part of our culture, much like movies, TV shows and books. They impact the way we think and react.  

When asked about commercials, many of us respond that they are extremely useful as “bathroom breaks” or “coffee making breaks”. But obviously, that’s just one side of the coin. In fact, commercials influence us more than we know – or care to admit. 

According to the University of Southern California, the average adult is exposed to approx. two million commercials every year. That’s a lot. So even if we do get up to go to the bathroom, fix dinner, or just zone out – thousands of commercials penetrate our cerebral cortex and make a resounding statement.  

It’s all About Emotions 

The most effective commercials appeal to our emotions. Just about every leading brand – from cars and footwear to insurance and food & beverages – uses commercials to evoke an emotional response from potential consumers 

We may not realize just how effective emotional advertising really is. The fact that brands may not necessarily want to convince you to immediately run out and buy their products, can confuse us into thinking their ads are not effective. Not true. While some commercials advertise special sales or invite you to check out their showroomsmost focus on long-term goals. They attempt to strengthen their brand awareness and convince viewers, one commercial at a time, that their brand aligns with their specific values.   

The most effective commercials work on subconscious levels. When a great sneaker ad with an emotional message (for example: women pride, everyone is a winner, etc.), is rebroadcast time after time, it can create significant impact. It not only attracts viewers’ attention to a new sneaker, but also gradually creates an emotional attachment to the sneaker brand.  

The Creative Commercial Toolkit 

To hit our buttons, commercials use a wide arsenal of tools. Humor is a very common tool. Funny commercials make us want to watch them over and over again, and are commonly shared on social media. The same goes for commercials that evoke a sense of extreme concern, by drawing our attention to serious conditions that require our attention. 

Another effective tool is using celebrities as actors or presenters. Our favorite actors, musicians and athletes help transform commercials into valid content – like movies, TV shows, sporting events or musical shows. We identify with our favorite celebrities, when they advertise a lawnmower or hamburger, we listen.   

The Personalized Commercial Break 

Online content has revolutionized everything, so it’s no wonder it has also changed the world of advertising. Content streaming has ushered the age of personalized commercials, and their impact is unprecedented.  

Today, technology has the ability to show every viewer a different commercial, based on his or her behavior and preferences. This enhances the match between commercial content and personal viewer values. As a result, viewers that are watching their favorite show will most likely receive a commercial break that suits their personal interests, values or needs – even if they don’t necessarily realize it. 

While it is true that the world of commercials has changed, the essence is still the same. Commercials are easy to ignore, but they are a part of life. One way or another, some of them will make us feel empathy. It’s unavoidable. Not convinced? Just think of your favorite brand.