This Neuroscience Study Says Ads Are More Effective on Publishers’ Websites Than Social News Feeds

Teads commissioned the research with Time Inc. and The Atlantic

Researchers mapped the brain's reaction to ads on premium publishers' websites versus Facebook.
Teads

Publishers’ own websites could be mightier than the almighty news feed when it comes to impact for advertisers, according to new neuroscience research comparing social platforms and premium sites.

Neuro-Insight, a neuro-marketing company, examined content from four major publishers—Condé Nast, Forbes, Time Inc., and The Atlantic—and found that test subjects were 16 percent more likely to find web posts relevant or engaging than similar content in social feeds. To understand how readers related to different types of content, Neuro-Insight connected 100 people with “neuro-mapping” technology and showed them videos in a Facebook newsfeed or a publisher’s website.

Along with being more personally relevant, publishers’ websites might be more memorable—they had a 19 percent greater impact on the rational left side of the brain, and an 8 percent greater impact on the emotional right side of the brain, the study found. Memories of video ads were also more detailed on the websites, with 8 in 10 performing better than in a social feed.

The results should be welcome news for publishers, which continue to struggle to monetize content on mobile and social platforms. Some estimates say major tech players like Google and Facebook get as much as 85 cents for every new digital dollar spent on advertising.

“What we’ve always understood is that there is strong engagement,” said Caryn Klein, Time Inc.’s vp of research and insights. “But how is that halo to an advertisers’ message? That’s always been a question. We know there is high engagement, but what we’re seeing here is that when you go into what the brain is doing, we’re proving here that there is a lot more resonance of the message from a memory standpoint.”

Teads chief marketing officer Rebecca Mahony said the goal was to give publishers a better view of how effective their ads really are.

Time Inc. is increasingly betting on the future of video. The company saw a 150 percent growth in video starts from 2015 to 2016—for a total of 4.6 billion—according to its fourth-quarter earnings.

The study, commissioned by Teads, an online video advertising firm, featured 15-second ads about everything from tech and CPG to fashion and food. Teads chief marketing officer Rebecca Mahony said the goal was to give publishers a better view of how effective their ads really are. She said in-depth, long-form stories also make a reader more invested, which in turn helps them recall ads better than when they’re passively scrolling.

Certain brands also perform better than others across platforms. For example, health food, coffee and hospitality brands advertising on publishers’ sites had a big impact on the detail-oriented left-side of the brain. However, ecommerce and consumer electronics brands resonated with the right side of the brain. An interesting caveat: hospitality brands and ads for TV programs fared best on Facebook.

“Advertising can drive a skew,” said Matt Engstrom, Teads’ director of content and insights. “It either impacts the detailed left side of the brain more strongly or the right side of the brain more strongly. And when that sort of imbalance aligns with the reaction of the content on the brain, that makes the advertising more likely to be impactful.”