OPA Ad Study Toys With Respondents’ Emotions

It’s often said that good TV ads should either make you laugh or cry. Apparently, good online ads should make you sweat.

The Online Publishers Association is so adamant about convincing traditional brand advertisers that good display advertising can pack an emotional wallop that it tapped Innerscope, a media research firm that specializes in neuroscience and biometrics.

The OPA’s work with Innerscope goes far beyond the typical online survey. According to the new study, sweating, an increased heart rate, changes in breathing and rapid eye movements are all indications of user-engagement with display ads.

For the study, Innerscope outfitted 100 18- to 54-year-old individuals with biometric monitors (which are worn across one’s chest) and had them visit three different news Web sites: NYTimes.com, CNN.com and MSNBC.com. Each site contained one of the OPA’s signature oversized ad units—the “XXL,” the “Pushdown” and the “Fixed Panel.”

Participants—all of whom were prescreened to make sure they were frequent online news consumers—each saw six ads during the study, resulting in 600 user sessions. During the sessions, Innerscope monitored users’ physical responses—skin sweat, heart rate and the like—while also monitoring their (visual) attentiveness to the screen, ads and content on each site.

“We felt that by being able to employ something like this [study] versus having consumers define their experiences, [it would be] much more effective,” said OPA president Pam Horan. “We wanted to create as natural an experience as possible.”

By ensuring a “natural” experience, the study provided some of the most valuable research to date on display advertising and the OPA’s high-impact units, argued Horan. And generally, the OPA units have proved to be attention-grabbing and more important, emotionally resonating. “The questions we asked were, ‘Are they looking?’ ‘Are they fixating?’ and ‘Are they connecting?’” said Horan.

The answers, according to the study, were a resounding yes. A whopping 96 percent of participants were found to have paid attention to the OPA ads.

And even though many of these high-impact units take a moment or two to fully load on a Web page, 67 percent of the study’s participants went back to look at these ads after their first 10 seconds on a particular page.

However, the real payoff was the emotional punch these ads exhibited. Among the respondents who checked out the OPA ads after their first 10 seconds on a page, “[the respondents had] stronger emotional response[s] to the OPA ad units than to the rest of the Web page,” says the report.