Mobile Advertising From Behind The Eyes

The software company Sharethrough recently commissioned a study from Nielsen to determine how consumers visually process mobile ads. The study applied eye tracking and neuroscience, the study of subconscious reactions in the brain, to mobile advertising.

Americans are spending an increasing amount of time on their mobile devices (tablet and smartphone), says the report, from 18 hours a month in 2011 to over 34 hours in 2014 (Nielsen, 2014). There is a near infinite amount of content, but only a finite amount of time to consume it all. And, Only 13% of Americans using mobile devices say they are willing to receive ads on their phones in exchange for services (Nielsen, 2014). Also, studies have shown that exposure to mobile ads can produce a 45% lift in intent (Nielsen, 2014). Win their attention and mobile users can be valuable prospects, says the report.

Sharethrough focused the study on how an advertiser gets its audience to pay attention to their ads on mobile, and how that attention can be measured. Click-through rate, says the report, only tells a fraction of the story. Even the highest-performing mobile ads, those with click-through rates above 1%, still fail to convert the other 99%, which could amount to millions of unconverted impressions over the course of a campaign.

To understand the effectiveness of mobile advertising, the study compared native ads and banners, creating mock ads from similar creative elements that were optimized for each format. Study participants were shown a video simulating the experience of scrolling through an editorial feed. The feed was paused and the participants were shown either a native ad or an in-feed banner. The study quantified where and how the participants' focus was being directed, using a combination of EEG data, measurements of neural activity in the brain, and eye tracking.

Unlike conventional mobile measurement, which evaluates a consumer's conscious reactions to ads, neuroscience taps into the brain’s subconscious reactions as well. The report says the subconscious is the motivating force behind many of our actions, including which brands we buy.

With neuroscience, Nielsen and Sharethrough uncovered the following: 

Native Ads Appear to Receive Two Times More Visual Focus than Banners

  • Across native ads and banners, eye gaze appeared to be consistently more concentrated on the native ad, even though both formats were placed in-feed. Previous studies have demonstrated native’s impact on desktop, where native ads receive 52% more visual focus than banners.

Banners Are Processed Peripherally

  • Banner ads receive little-to-no visual focus on the text. They 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 of 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

Brand Assets Impact Brand Resonance Lift

  • Including key brand assets (e.g. logos, keywords, etc.) can facilitate the formation of brand associations and increase brand lift.

To see the full study results and learn about additional best practices, please visit here.


1 comment about "Mobile Advertising From Behind The Eyes".
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  1. Neha Mallik from Mobstac, April 17, 2015 at 11:02 p.m.

    Great insights Jack! Totally agree on how 'localization' and 'location-based' advertising is here to stay. Further strengthened by the localization techniques available now: Wi-Fi, geo-fencing and beacons, retailers have great scope to make the most of it. We are conducting a webinar on 'How Retailers can leverage Beacons, Wi-Fi and Geo-fencing to achieve maximum ROI' to talk about the possibilities. More on this here:

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