CONGRUENT, CONSISTENT, OR CONTINGENT? TESTING CONTRASTING HYPOTHESES ON THE BEHAVIORAL IMPACT OF PROGRAM-COMMERCIAL COMPATIBILITY
 
Fennis, B.M. and van Rossem, T., Free University, Netherlands
 
What makes viewers of television commercials stick to the screen or switch channels to be entertained by other television fare? The present study extends previous research on context effects in television advertising by investigating the impact of program-commercial mood (in)congruity on viewer's channel switching (zapping) behavior. We tested and contrasted predictions from three complementary theoretical frameworks on the effects of antecedent moods on the evaluation of subsequently presented stimuli. Mood Congruency Theory (Kamins, Marks & Skinner, 1991) would predict that viewers' zapping behavior during a pod of commercials would increase after viewing a sad television program and would decrease when they watch a happy program, regardless of the affective valence of the presented commercials. The Consistency Effect (Kamins et al., 1991) postulates zapping behavior as a function of the affective congruity between television and commercial content, such that zapping rates would be lower under congruent (sad/sad or happy/happy) than incongruent conditions. Finally, the Hedonic Contingency Hypothesis (Wegener & Petty, 1994) would predict that a happy, but not a sad, television program would enhance the viewer's tendency to scrutinize the perceived hedonic consequences of viewing the subsequently presented commercials on the same channel. Thus, zapping rates would be a function of the extent to which the viewer perceives the commercials following the happy program as equally or more hedonically "rewarding", with zapping rates increasing when commercials are perceived to be less hedonically rewarding than the previously shown program and decreasing under reversed conditions. These predictions were tested in an experiment using a 2 (program: happy/sad) by 2 (commercials: happy/sad) between subjects factorial design. Results supported the Hedonic Contingency Hypothesis. That is people viewing the happy program based their choices whether or not to keep on watching the same television channel on the affective valence of the subsequently presented commercials more than individuals viewing the sad program. Hence zapping rates were more polarized for viewers watching the happy than the sad television program. The theoretical and practical implications of the findings will be discussed.