A red and blue London Underground sign at the top of an escalator

Research from the Advertising for Good Research Association (AGORA), based within the Centre for Excellence in Media Practice, demonstrated the role of digital media and advertising in stimulating consumer imagination and has transformed advertising in Transport for London (TfL) and out-of-home (OOH) advertising.

As a result of the research, companies can enhance their advertising effectiveness by optimising creative messaging and targeting by format, location and time to improve levels of engagement and generate more relevant and enjoyable advertising for passengers.

The power of consumer imagination

In collaboration with COG Research and Exterion Media (now Global), AGORA designed and carried out The Engagement Zone - the world’s largest study into consumers’ responses to OOH advertising.

The research aims were to investigate passengers’ mindset during their journey and how OOH media could be optimised to increase passengers’ engagement with advertising in the London Underground. 

The academic contribution was a unique approach based on the concept of the consumer imagination. Imagination is considered to be the driver of contemporary consumption – desire for goods and experiences originates in the imagination where it affords us pleasure and our need to actualise pleasurable imagined scenarios or avoid negative ones motivates consumption.

Unlike conventional methods which measure advertising effectiveness based on awareness or attitudinal change following message exposure, the imagination concept shifts attention to the consumer mindset, the context in which advertising is received and its role in triggering imaginative daydreaming and driving consumption.

Based on this approach and working in conjunction with COG Research and Exterion, AGORA colleagues designed a multifaceted study that included measurement of physiological responses to advertising using eye tracking glasses (ETG) and skin conductance recorders (SCR) with 100 passengers during a typical tube journey and 54 follow-up interviews, over two weeks in January 2016.

In mapping out advertising responsiveness based on passengers’ mindset, the research has contributed to the transformation of the advertising environment across TfL to benefit 1.3 billion passengers using the network every year.