March 2020 (Vol. 60, Issue 1): CREATIVITY
A Neuroscientific Method for Assessing Effectiveness of Digital vs. Print Ads: Using Biometric Techniques to Measure Cross-Media Ad Experience and Recall
There are a number of studies comparing the effectiveness of advertising online and in print. Where that research falls short is comparing how people divide their visual attention when using different devices and media, and integrating neuroscientific tools to measure that response to advertising.
This study helps to fill that research gap. The authors compared readers’ reactions to three different media formats of newspaper advertising: paper, PDF on a tablet, and a website using a PC. They evaluated response measuring memorization, visual attention and cognitive response, including the use of two neuroscientific measures: eye tracking and brain scanning using electroencephalography (EEG).
The results largely support existing research on “banner blindness”—the tendency of users to avoid looking at advertising banners when viewing content on websites. Indeed, “the website had the lowest performance in terms of visual attention and memorization,” the authors—Andrea Ciceri and Giulia Songa (SenseCatch, a research consultancy in Como, Italy), Vincenzo Russo (IULM University, Milan) and Giorgio Gabrielli (News 3 and IULM University), and Jesper Clement (Copenhagen Business School)—write.
What’s more, while participants watched advertising messages, “the PDF version of the newspaper on a tablet device yielded the highest memory performance, the greatest visual attention, and the highest … EEG frustration index (defined as a ‘state of perceived irritation’).”
For marketers, the study “provides relevant insights related to the choice of medium and to benefits in the practical use of neuroscience methods.”
The banner-blindness hypothesis has received additional support from the data presented and analyzed in this research and by means of neuromarketing techniques:
- Eye-tracking data show that people spent more time on advertising flyers when reading a newspaper on a tablet and on paper when compared with website navigation.
- Brain waves associated with a perceived unpleasantness showed greater activation when participants viewed ads while reading a newspaper on a tablet and on paper rather than on a website.
These findings underline the benefits of applying neuroscientific methods in combination with pen-and-paper techniques, such as memory tasks. In using these multiple methods, researchers can gain a deeper understanding of reader behavior and be better able to describe consumers’ psychological and behavioral responses to advertising.
Future research should explore other external variables by increasing the number of media comparisons, for example website content shown on a tablet and on a PC screen, and the PDF version of the ad shown on a PC screen and on a tablet. Researchers also should consider user traits, as well as long-term memorization of ads on different media. (Seminal research from the 1980s found that memory diminishes over time.)