What medium or channel is the best for advertising? What is the optimal mix of digital and analogue? In determining where to put one’s ad, many companies are gravitating towards digital formats. But many studies have recently shown that the digital realm is confounded by too much information and competition, causing information overload on consumers. Therefore, the understanding of how medium affects the message is key.

What we did

Mobile eye­tracking and brain scanning (EEG), combined with survey and memory tests.

Client examples

Close to 300 participants were tested (9 groups with 30 in each, plus over­recruit), and exposed to advertising (high and low involvement). Overall, some groups were exposed to digital media (smartphone, PC etc) and others were exposed to different types of direct mail (e.g., mail, postcard). Besides the biometric and NeuroMetric scores, we also assessed consumers’ content memory.


Overall, we found that ad memory was significantly stronger for direct mail than the digital channels. When asked about the brand memory for the prior ads, participants case media 1.fwwho had been exposed to direct mail had a memory success of 75%, while those who had seen the ads on a digital platform only had a 44% recall rate. This clearly showed that brand memory was different for the formats used.

To better understand how these effects occurred, we looked at the neural scores while participants interacted with the ads. Here, we found digital formats were associated with a much higher Cognitive Load and a lower Motivation response. This suggests that the digital realm causes a higher cognitive stress, which has a negative effect on how we process ads emotionally.

By further calculating the Motivation­to­case media 2.fwCognitiveLoad ratio (MCR), we could see that physical communication scored much higher than digital channels. The MCR score is an expression of how much an emotional motivation response compares to cognitive stress, and a higher score indicates that people are responding more emotionally to the ad content. Together, this result demonstrated that direct mail has several advantages to digital channels in bringing ad content and ensuring brand recall. In these days, where advertisers are shifting their ad strategies over to digital channels, this study provides a significant challenge to these strategic choices.

Nevertheless, one can claim that digital and physical media face different challenges:

● digital channels are challenged by information overload, but may be good at providing an initial exposure to advertising
● physical channels are good at ensuring emotions and memory once they are processed, but may face the challenge of being picked up in the first place These differences provide clues to how we can optimise communication and advertising strategies across different platforms. As future studies will focus on how channels affect each other dynamically, we are sure to learn more very media 3.fw

  • “By further calculating the Motivation­to­CognitiveLoad ratio (MCR), we could see that physical communication scored much higher than digital channels.

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