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The relative influence of advertising and word-of-mouth on viewing new season television programmes

Jenni Romaniuk (Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, University of South Australia, Adelaide, Australia)
Nicole Hartnett (Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, University of South Australia Business School, Adelaide, Australia)

European Journal of Marketing

ISSN: 0309-0566

Article publication date: 13 February 2017




This paper aims to investigate the relative influence of advertising and word of mouth (WOM) for new season TV programmes, both new and returning.


The study’s longitudinal research design tracks individuals before and after possible exposure to advertising and/or positive WOM (PWOM) to model the effects of both paid versus earned media on behaviour.


This study provides contrary evidence to previous research that suggests that WOM has more influence on consumers than advertising. By controlling for viewers’ benchmark probabilities of viewing the TV programme, the effect of receiving PWOM becomes insignificant, whereas the effect of TV advertising remains unchanged. Because WOM is commonly exchanged between people with shared interests, it reaches an audience that is already highly disposed to view the TV programme.

Research limitations/implications

The findings implicate that we need to reinvestigate the power of WOM to avoid misattribution of effects. This study is only study in one category, which means replication and extension to more categories are needed. The limitations of the study include the inability to control for creative differences in the execution of programme promotions or examine possible cross-media synergies for multimedia campaigns.

Practical implications

Findings have implications for how much to invest in WOM-generating activities. Findings also have wider implications for cross-media research and media-mix models, as different media may reach audiences with differing predispositions to act.


This is one of the rare individual-level, longitudinal studies that investigate the influence of WOM in comparison to advertising.



This research was funded by the Australian Research Council Linkage grant LP0882784 with Network Ten Australia. The funding bodies approved the research but were not engaged in the research design, process or authoring of this paper. The authors would like to thank their colleagues at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute, and in particular, Professor Robert East, Cathy Nguyen and Virginia Beal for their feedback and support.


Romaniuk, J. and Hartnett, N. (2017), "The relative influence of advertising and word-of-mouth on viewing new season television programmes", European Journal of Marketing, Vol. 51 No. 1, pp. 65-81.



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