Mobile beats TV in emotional ad engagement

New Yahoo study offers insights on effective ad placement

Consumer attention continues to shift to mobile platforms. Average smartphone use has increased by an hour per day in the last few years, mostly at the expense of television audiences. Advertisers are following, and that’s beginning to pay off. According to a new study, viewers are more emotionally engaged with the ads they see on their smartphones than those on television.

The report from Yahoo Insights, "A Day in the Life of a Media Consumer," details the time spent by audiences with various screen devices. "One could hypothesize that there is a more intimate relationship with one's smartphone," said David Iudica, senior director for strategic insights and research at Yahoo. "Additionally, mobile ads tend to be more personalized and native in nature, which is usually more appealing to the user."

Using eye-tracking glasses and biometric monitoring wristwatches, researchers compiled information on the ads and content the subjects saw and paid attention to as they went about their daily tasks and leisure activities: whether a person was watching the banner ad or the article, their smartphone or the television, whether their attention wandered or switched during commercials and whether their pulse quickened as they watched.

But level of emotional engagement isn’t consistent across the board — younger people are more invested in their mobile devices and the content they deliver. Older viewers get distracted. "Millennials are noticing and emotionally engaging with the ads more than Gen-Xers, and this is likely because Gen-Xers are less proficient at multitasking," Iudica added.

Just like for primetime TV, app usage spikes between 7:00 and 10:00 p.m. on weekdays and that creates competition for attention. It presents an opportunity that advertisers aren’t yet taking full advantage of, the report said. Mobile ads are much cheaper to buy than their TV counterparts, but only 34% of ads bought are digital, compared to 41% for television.

Mobile ads can also reach audiences anywhere, and at times when it’s hard for TV to reach them. "Advertisers should take advantage of the heightened emotional receptivity smartphones deliver for advertising during the entire day, as it is a more efficient buy when compared to primetime TV," Iudica said.

Subscribe today for just $116 a year

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to , plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a subscriber


Don’t miss your daily fix of breaking news, latest work, advice and commentary.

register free