TV Commercials and Advertising Psychology Experiment

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Author: Alison Roozeboom

You’re watching your favorite show. Something exciting is about to happen…and…the network goes to commercial. So you tune out for a few minutes while the advertisements flash by. But did you know that companies strategically plan when they’re going to run these commercials on television, on which channel, and during which program? Commercials are expensive, and companies want to target a specific audience—the audience that’s most likely to be interested in buying their products. Let's watch some TV and do a psychology experiment at the same time!


What can the day of the week, time of day and television program during which certain commercials run tell us about the kind of audience companies are trying to target?


  • Television with cable channels
  • Pen
  • Paper


  1. You can either draw the outline below on a piece of paper, or create it on your computer to take notes during the experiment. You will need five of these tables.

Day of Week & Time:


Television Program:


# of Commercials:


Products / Services Advertised:



  1. You are going to choose five different television programs to watch. One should be early in the morning (try catching the morning news around 7 am), one during the afternoon (it’s best if you can do this during a weekday around 2 pm, during a soap opera), one during a weekday evening when a popular series drama is showing a new episode (this will likely be around 8 pm), one during a weekend sports game (see if you can record your notes during a big football game on Sunday afternoon), and lastly, one late at night (around 11 pm, maybe during a talk show).
  1. When you sit down to begin your experiment, take note of the television program that’s showing, and the time of day. The program can be half an hour or an hour long.
  1. When the show goes to its first commercial break, you’re on! Make a hash mark for each commercial that runs. Quickly jot down the name of the product or service that is advertised. Repeat to include all of the commercial breaks in the duration of the program.
  1. After you’ve taken notes for all five programs, look at your data with a critical eye. What connections can you make between the day of the week, time of day, the television program, and what commercials were running?
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