Facebook’s Head of Audience Insights and Research Shares Advertising Secrets for Attention Economy
PSFK speaks to Helen Crossley about how neuroscience is being used to power better mobile content
A shift in currency—from coins to digital attention—has changed the nature of advertising at large. As screens get smaller and smaller, with the younger generations absorbing and sharing the majority of content directly on their phones, mobile has presented an entirely new set of opportunities (and challenges) for brands to make noise.
From marketers to product developers, people are searching for the most engaging ways to enter the attention economy. With but 30 seconds to capture the interest of a millenial audience, which medium is most efficient? Should brands emphasize messaging, storytelling, influencer engagement or another element to most quickly and effectively have an impact?
PSFK speaks to Helen Crossley, Facebook’s Head of Audience Insights Research, about how neuroscience can be leveraged to impact these critical advertising decisions. In anticipation of Crossley’s panel at the 2015 CreateTech Conference, we learn key takeaways for designing campaigns for both the brain and the shrinking screen.
PSFK: How does Facebook balance user interest for unobtrusive advertising and advertiser’s goals?
Helen Crossley: Giving people control and maintaining trust is at the core of everything we do, and it’s not at all a balance. Our advertising partners know that if we don’t uphold that trust, we’re not an effective marketing platform. We build privacy into all of our products and features. In order to allow people to get the most out of Facebook we offer comprehensive controls through Ad Preferences to choose what information is used to show advertising, on and off Facebook.
PSFK: You did a neuromarketing study with Salesbrain. Can you tell us about it and the key takeaways for advertisers?
HC: We recently commissioned Salesbrain to research how people view the same ads on TV and smartphones differently. Marketers are very familiar with TV advertising formats—TV has been the dominant advertising medium for decades and as such our understanding of consumers and their interactions with TV are quite robust. However, in terms of mobile advertising, many advertisers were asking us how they should think about the small screen.
So, how is the viewing experience different between the two? We set out to answer that question by using neuromarketing which directly measures the brain’s response to stimulus. We measured attention, distraction, cognitive load and emotional responses to the same ads on TV and mobile, and the results were surprising. We found that the small screen—the mobile screen—is not so small as it packs a powerful punch when it comes to the measures of attention and positive emotions in particular.
PSFK: As screens become smaller (and might eventually disappear altogether), how might a user’s emotional reaction to advertising also change?
HC: We thought, I think like most people, that the bigger the screen the bigger the emotional impact, which didn’t turn out to be the case. We actually found that people feel more positively toward the same advertisement shown on a mobile device versus on television.
Our personal relationships with our mobile devices are having an impact on how our brain perceives messages on those devices, which is good news for marketers because the trend toward more personalized devices and experiences is here to stay even if the screens are getting smaller, or as you suggest, even disappearing.
Having said all that, we did find that no matter the device the common thread of good advertising is all about a story told well.
Bad stories and ads do not magically become good ones if you simply change the device on which they are shown.
PSFK: Can you discuss neuroscience’s role in consumer insights alongside things like big data and analytics? What does neuroscience add to these disciplines?
HC: Neuroscience is an emerging field in consumer insights, and when done well, it allows us to truly understand volunteers’ reactions to advertising. When researchers measure the neurological reactions of consumers, the brain doesn’t lie or tell them something it thinks they want to hear.
As researchers, we may not understand why we see certain behaviors or patterns, which is where surveys can help to fill in some gaps. We can also use analytics to further validate hypotheses and understand patterns across people which may not be possible with traditional research techniques.
4A’s CreateTech Conference is an annual gathering of creative technologists, developers, executives, and innovators in advertising, media, and other digital industries. Tickets for CreateTech 2015 taking place on November 11 and November 12 in NYC are available now.
Top Photo: Young man using Facebook application via Shutterstock