Brands Need a “One Second Strategy”

The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) announced the results of a Cognition Neuroscience Research project. In collaboration with The Advertising Research Foundation (The ARF), the trade group focused on unbiased quality in research on advertising, media and marketing, and Neurons Inc., an applied neuroscience research company, the MMA set out to understand how consumers process information in a mobile environment.

The research revealed the human brain needs 400 milliseconds (or 4/10th of a second or less than ½ second), to engage with mobile advertising and trigger an imprint, positive or negative. This means consumer time and attention can´t be taken for granted. Essentially, by the time a consumer blinks, their brain has already seen and processed a mobile ad. And more so, by the time it takes for their heart to beat once, they have very likely formed an emotional response (under 7/10ths of a second).

This cognition research is the most recent study aligned to the MMA’s rigorous and intensive research agenda in the areas of marketing measurement, organization design, creative innovation, emerging technologies and more. Using neuroscience to really understand the human brain’s reaction to advertising (actual cognitive process) is a relatively new technique applied to advertising that pushes our knowledge boundaries beyond what previous eye tracking studies allowed. This study is focused on the “opportunity to see” both in mobile and desktop.

“I applaud the MMA for continuing to use science to help marketers really understand how mobile can work harder and smarter to drive their business growth,” said Kristi Argyilan, MMA Board Member and SVP Marketing Media and Measurement, Target Corporation. “Understanding the point at which cognition takes place gives marketers a real opportunity to better leverage our media and creative strategies.”

More specifically the data shows:

  •     Cognitive process of advertising is fast: The human brain needs less than ½ second to engage with mobile advertising & trigger a reaction, positive or negative.
  •         More than 67% of ads tested were already seen and cognitively recognized at 0.4 seconds.
  •     Time is Relative: Ads in a mobile feed environment get attention faster and trigger stronger cognition, compared to desktop.
  •         It took 2-3 seconds for two thirds of desktop ads to be seen and cognitively recognized in comparison to 0.4 seconds for mobile
  •     Our Brain is faster on branding: Cognitive process is accelerated for known brands.
  •         Although all ads have the same likelihood of being seen, “well-known” brands stimulate a much faster cognitive and emotional processing given the same time.
  •     Video more quickly and better engages the emotional brain: While static and video ads have the same likelihood of being seen, video ads are twice as likely to create emotional response than static in faster exposure speeds (less than 0.7 seconds).
  •     Weak ads work fast and fail even faster: Weak ads are processed faster and create negative emotional responses in less than a second.
  •         Ads that had been shown to have weak brand performance generated only negative motivation in the first second.

The implications to these findings suggest that although brands have been trained to develop 15/30 second creative and media strategies, or even 06/07 second strategies, marketers should now develop plans and strategies that address the first one second. The report from the MMA urges brands to develop a clear “one second” strategy to leverage this critical point of consumer cognition.

“A core guiding principle of the MMA is a commitment to science and truth in marketing for brands, leveraging the most forward-leaning and future oriented research techniques and methodologies.” said Greg Stuart, CEO of the MMA. “The neuroscience cognition research undeniably supports marketers in making better decisions around both their marketing investments and creative strategies.”

“This is the first project the ARF has reviewed its certification program – the ARF’s drive for ‘radical transparency’ and truth in advertising research,” said Scott McDonald, CEO of The ARF. “We really appreciate the MMA’s commitment to this level of transparency and being the pilot partner.”


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