Research: Ad placement affects memory retention

By Jessie Sampson


London, United Kingdom

Why do ads perform better in premium editorial environments?

It’s no secret — in fact, it’s the focus of much research here at Newsworks — that newspapers in both their print and digital forms provide advertisers with an engaged context. Lumen eye-tracking studies show us readers not only engage with advertising content across newspapers’ multiple platforms, but aligning campaigns with relevant editorial can dramatically increase the attention given to the accompanying ads.

Research indicates ads perform better in a premium context.
Research indicates ads perform better in a premium context.

In fact, various studies have demonstrated how ads appearing on premium publisher sites have a positive impact on brand and business metrics. Newsworks and Magnetic’s whitepaper “The power of context” summarises several of these recent projects.

Further building on this body of work, Newsworks and the Association of Online Publishers teamed up with neuroscience experts at Neuro-Insight to understand more about why online ads performed better on premium editorial sites. What’s happening in the brain when consumers are exposed to ads in different online environments?

To do this, the research measured participants’ brain responses to identical ads in different contexts, analysing a number of areas in the brain to identify key metrics.

These were:

  • Long-term memory encoding: Memory encoding is key because it correlates with decision-making and purchase intent. It is measured for both left brain (detail and language) and right brain (more global aspects of processing).
  • Engagement: Engagement is an indicator of how involved people are and is generally triggered by material of personal relevance.
  • Emotional intensity: Emotional intensity relates to the strength of emotion being experienced.

The results show that ads seen in a premium context are:

  • Viewed for longer periods of time (+17%).
  • Create 29% higher engagement (personal relevance).
  • Generate greater levels of left brain (+42%) and right brain (+9%) memory encoding than ads on social media (Facebook and YouTube).

When ads are seen within a premium context, they also elicit stronger, more positive emotional responses.

While social media is associated with high levels of immediate attention, the study indicates this is not creating engagement (personal relevance) or being converted into long-term brand memories to the same extent as on premium sites.

However, the good news for advertisers is that premium editorial sites and social media sites elicit complementary response patterns. Social media provides a holistic, visual, overall brand impression, while premium contexts stimulates high levels of left brain memory encoding and engagement. Even better, both premium sites and social media outperform general free browsing. So, it’s worth paying attention to where ads appear, as well as the audience brands want to target.

“We already knew that context was important for digital ad performance. Now we know that it is because the brain processes ads differently depending on where they are encountered,” said Newsworks’ CEO Vanessa Clifford. “It’s not enough to find the right audience, people need to see ads in an environment that is conducive to memory encoding if we are to build brands longer term and maximise effectiveness. Premium editorial sites provide that highly valuable context."

You can find out more about the research here.

About Jessie Sampson

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