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Transportation Research (Flow Theory)

Flow Theory ResearchTransportation Research (Flow Theory)

Measuring Audience Response to Narrative Advertising

Successful advertisements do many things. They intrude, persuade, and/or are liked, to name a few. But potentially the most important thing they do is transport. When a commercial transports, its viewers experience a flow-like mental state where the world created by the spot comes to life and the actual world is momentarily tuned out. In many cases, the viewer abandons critical thought and is subjected to a more fundamental form of belief change.
Increasingly, marketing professionals are employing flow-based communication strategies as an alternative to sales-point driven advertising to promote and strengthen customer-brand relationships. One approach that is gaining acceptance involves narrative-based messaging, the use of stories to communicate and model how consumers can use their products and create meaning, in a manner that is simultaneously entertaining and engaging. This enables advertisers to talk to, rather than talk at, their audiences.

With the use of advertising storytelling comes the need for alternative effectiveness measures to supplement those that have been fostered from traditional models of communication persuasion. People process messages in very different ways depending on whether they encounter them as advertising (e.g., overt persuasion in a print ad or TV commercial) or, for example, incorporated into an entertainment program. For this reason, G&R has developed a specialized approach to evaluating narrative-based messaging.

Our solution is based on the idea that effective narrative-based messaging elicits Transportation, in addition to or even in lieu of Persuasion. Instead of trying to convince a person of a differentiating idea through arguments and counterarguments, Transportation works through an integrative melding of attention, imagery and emotional responding. In addition to measures of traditional persuasion outcomes, Transportation Research includes additional measures designed to capture outcomes that get at the respondents state of mind during exposure to the stimulus. This leads to a more complete understanding of effects that may be subtle and otherwise overlooked when only traditional persuasion measures are used.

Key Benefits and Features:


  • Based on the emerging concept of Flow Theory as applied to communication
  • Augment and/or explain traditional measurement results
  • Allows for an expanded understanding of the gradual process wherein messaging can cultivate long-lasting beliefs and attitudes
  • Adaptable to most media platforms including television, radio, video games, and webisodes
  • Appropriate for concept development, launch qualification or post-launch evaluation