Neuroscience Study on How Consumers Visually Process Mobile Ads–Conclusion? Go Native


Sharethrough, the leading native advertising automation company, today announced the results of a year-long study it commissioned from Nielsen to determine how consumers visually process mobile ads. Marking the first time neuroscience has been used to study native mobile ads, the research found that, similarly to editorial posts, native advertisements appearing on mobile websites appear to receive twice as much visual focus as banners on mobile devices, even though both formats were placed in-feed. The study also found that among native ads, the majority of explicit visual focus was on the ad’s text rather than the thumbnail and offers new insights on how specific language can impact brand associations. The full study, A Neuroscience Perspective:Assessing Visual Focus, Message Processing & The Ability To Strengthen Associations Through Mobile Native Advertising, can be downloaded.

Unlike survey-based measurement, which evaluates a consumer’s conscious reactions to ads, neuroscience taps into the brain’s subconscious. Neuroscientists believe the subconscious is the motivating force behind many of our actions, including which brands we buy from.

Using a combination of EEG data—measurements of neural activity in the brain—and eye tracking, Nielsen quantified where and how the participants’ focus was being directed.

Key findings from the study include:

  • Native Ads Appear to Receive Twice As Much Visual Focus as Banners. Across native ads and banners, the participants’ eye gaze appeared to be consistently more concentrated on the native ad, even though both formats were placed in-feed.
  • Banner ads receive little to no visual focus on the text. Banners are processed in the peripheral field of vision as is common for images. This type of processing occurs much faster than textual processing and can hinder reading taglines.
  • Native Ads Are Being Read. Among native ads, the majority of explicit visual focus was on the ad’s text rather than the thumbnail. The same was true for editorial posts.
  • Native Ad Headlines Can Be Optimized to Trigger Associations. Words from an associative network similar to words included in the headline can result in a higher message resonance lift and can subconsciously influence brand perception.

“As the industry moves toward 100 percent viewability and mobile advertising continues to skyrocket, it’s important we understand what consumers actually ‘see’ when advertising appears on mobile sites,” said Dan Greenberg, Sharethrough CEO. “What better way to understand what goes on in the consumer’s mind than neuroscience? The study proves that not only are consumers seeing native ads, they’re paying much more visual attention to them and in fact, reading their content. The findings also provide meaningful guidance on the art of constructing native ads, providing the industry with science-backed guidelines for how to best organize, display and write text for native ads.”


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