A Case Study for Neuroscience in Action

A Case Study for Neuroscience in Action
A Case Study for Neuroscience in Action

By Julia Shisgal 

Having looked previously at the current status quo of neuroscience and the thinking behind it, we now look at neuroscience in action.

Study Background


A study commissioned by Receptiv (a mobile ad platform–previously known as MediaBrix), and conducted by neuroscience research firms True Impact and Neurons Inc., sought to quantify how the delivery of mobile ads influenced branding metrics and users’ receptivity, attention, and action.



The study used brain imaging along with eye-tracking technologies to measure how people reacted to mobile ads under different contexts (MediaBrix, 2016). 

The study involved 62 participants (males and females aged 21-45), who were observed as they interacted with mobile ads, while their neural and biometric responses were recorded (before, during, and after the ad interaction). The stimuli tested were 30-second mobile video ads with the same creative for Smith and Forge Hard Cider, a Miller Coors brand, and another 30-second mobile video ad for a major confectionary brand. The ads were delivered in two different formats: full screen interstitial ad vs. embedded opt-in ad. The full page interstitial popped up and took over the entire screen, while the embedded opt-in ad came up at a moment of need during gameplay, contained contextual elements of the game and offered a reward to help the user keep playing.

Additionally, the participants responded to a post-test interview survey to further gage their cognitive load (engagement), motivation, and level of desire in their interaction with the test app and advertisements.

Key Insights


  • Interstitial video ad format was twice as likely to evoke a negative emotional response when compared with embedded opt-in ad: 
  1. Full screen video ad aroused the brain’s “flight or fight” response, along with pupil dilation, and increase in heart rate 
  2. Eye tracking revealed that for full screen ad, 22% of viewing time involved searching for the “X” button to close the ad altogether  
  • In comparing viewing for the two formats, the embedded opt-in ad garnered a 90% view rate, versus the interstitial ad that was viewed 25%.
  • The embedded opt-in ad viewers were 8 times more cognitively engaged and spent triple the amount of times fixating on the brand creative message 
  • Viewers of the embedded opt-in format, were more engaged, had better recall, and better understanding of the brand offer. More specifically, 70% remembered the product and 73% understood the brand offer, versus viewers who experienced the interstitial ad (40% and 49%) respectively

What does this mean for Mobile Ads?


The findings reveal that the embedded opt-in video ad was significantly more appealing, motivating, and engaging than the full screen interstitial format. For the embedded ad, the level of cognitive load (i.e., how much energy the brain is dedicating to a task) was maintained (before, during, and after the ad). However, for the full screen pop-up ad there was a significant drop in cognitive load when the ad was playing. Comparatively, the full screen ad were negatively viewed both subconsciously (via the neural and biometric measures) and consciously, as annoying and disruptive.

In conclusion, advertisers need to consider that mobile devices are a personal part of people’s lives, often being the first thing we see when we wake up and the last screen we see at the end of the day. Ads that are incorporated into the context and “ask permission” (e.g., “it looks like you could use refreshment…or some help right now” and follow up with “would you like to know more?” makes people more open and more likely to engaging with that ad (Rody-Mantha, 2016). Diana Lucaci clarifies the reason behind this is “that in-app ads that provide rewards create an emotional connection, while pop-ups are largely considered a nuisance” (Lindzon, 2016).

Furthermore, some critical differences between the aforementioned ad formats, include the embedded video ad being prompted at a time when viewers’ emotions were engaged (e.g., being out of lives or points in a game app), and secondly, the viewer was not taken out of the game experience, they were still able to see the background and understand the embedded ad within the context of the game. Another critical consideration, is that the app used in the study was a vertical app and the interstitial ad was horizontal (as are the majority of today’s mobile videos)—however, less than one third of respondents turned the phone to see what the ad was about (Rody-Mantha, 2016; John, 2016). This poses interesting challenges and opportunities for vertical video in the years to come.

At the end of the day, it is critical to consider not only the creative, but also the context and delivery type of the creative. A great ad that is never experienced is a waste of marketing dollars.

Julia Shisgal, Quantability

Article reproduced with permission of RW Connect and ESOMAR.

Source: https://rwconnect.esomar.org/a-case-study-for-neuroscience-in-action/

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