The Science of Mobile Marketing

Keying into human emotions has long been a tough task for advertisers. Making sure that consumers care about the advertisement you place before them is vital, but also hard to measure. Neuroscience, or the study of the nervous system, is opening up doors for marketers to take a peek inside the consumer’s emotional state, and see how effective their advertising truly is.

Traditionally, to test how well an ad performs, an agency might show an advertisement to users and then ask them to fill out a questionnaire on how the ad made them feel. While this can help, it has flaws as well, especially on mobile. For instance, eye tracking has long been a way to gauge an ad’s effectiveness, but since the smaller screen makes it harder to track a test subject’s eye movements, it loses some value on mobile devices. Another issue is the subject’s willingness or ability to communicate how they feel.

According to Pranav Yadav, CEO of Neuron-Insights US Inc., human emotions are so complicated that it can be hard for us to explain how we feel even if we want to. Surveying subjects also lacks an understanding of the subconscious, where 95 percent of all cognition happens, according to a study by Harvard business professor Gerald Zaltman.

The Advertising Research Foundation performed a neuroscience study on mobile advertising and found two key results: cross-platform advertising is better than a single platform, and the messaging across those platforms must be unified. Leaving mobile out of the equation is no longer an option. They added that unified branding does not mean using the same ads. This is an important distinction when creating a campaign. Ads on mobile must be optimized for the smaller screens and more personal nature of a mobile device. While television ads are better for going into details, mobile ads are more effective at getting an emotional response from the user. These answers can be gleaned from test subjects thanks to neuroscience.

Another study by MediaBrix, True Impact, and Neurons Inc. looked at the effectiveness of mobile video ads through the same techniques. The key finding was that users would much rather see embedded, contextual video ads than interstitials, and it wasn’t even close. While looking at the interstitial, viewers spent 22 percent of their time looking at the “X” button to close out the window. When viewers opted in to ads that rewarded them with value in the context of the page or app, 90 percent watched the entire spot, as opposed to 25 percent watching the pop-up ads. Based on neuroscience, the embedded ads also showed that the users had four times as much motivation to continue using the app.

These two studies and their findings show what neuroscience can mean to mobile marketers. Being able to look at a consumer’s level of certain emotions without having to trust that consumer to accurately describe it is a boon for the advertising industry. As this science becomes a bigger part of advertising, expect to see more studies like this, and less that depend on surveys given to the test subjects. The future of advertising is mobile, and the future of advertising testing is neuroscience.

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