In a study that threatens the cinema’s most precious resource—pre-movie commercials—German researchers have found that eating popcorn may negatively impact the effectiveness of ads, leaving their viewers woefully unmotivated by their brand messages. Cologne University psychologists recently conducted a pair of studies on people who were like, “Sure, great!” when told by a group of Germans to come into a darkened room so they could experiment on them, screening a film preceded by a series of clips for new, unknown products. Half of the subjects received free popcorn to munch on while they watched; the other, probably resentful half received a sugar cube to place in their mouths, presumably while being assured that it certainly had not been laced with a dangerous chemical, ha ha, we are just friendly German scientists here.

As recounted in the finished study—which bears the appropriately cold, clinical title “Popcorn in the Cinema: Oral Interference Sabotages Advertising Effects”—researchers then tested those same subjects a week later, discovering that those who ate the sugar cube were 65 percent likely to buy one of the advertised products, while those who’d allowed their chewing to orally interfere were only 40 percent likely to do the same. Their conclusion: Chewing disrupts the “inner speech” wherein the brain begins to subconsciously practice pronouncing an unfamiliar brand name, replacing it with the far-less effective marketing strategy of breaking down food for sustenance. Popcorn-chewers will thus go on “living,” if you can call it that, but only in the sham meaning of the word where they aren’t constantly learning about fine new products.


The solution, as suggested by evil Germans, is that “advertisers should try to prevent candy and popcorn being sold until after the ad roll”—a strategy that has yet to be adopted by movie theaters, who obviously need to be fed their own “listening” sugar cubes so they understand. (“I guess they just need time to digest it,” one of the researchers told The Hollywood Reporter in what was probably meant to be a funny pun, but no doubt sounded like a threat.) In the meantime, perhaps advertising agencies could adopt their own, equally practical strategy of sending their employees to theaters, so they can slap the popcorn out of moviegoers’ hands and scream, “Pay attention!” during commercials.