Priming Across Screens: The Cross-channel Impact of Mobile and TV

From our living rooms to the palm of our hands, screens big and small are giving us the flexibility to access content whenever and wherever we want. While this 24/7 access appeals to consumers, it has complicated campaign planning for advertisers. People can now see the same brand ad on different screens and at multiple times on any given day, whether they are on their mobile phone or watching their favorite TV show.

Facebook wanted to understand the neural impact of preceding an ad exposure on one platform with an ad exposure on another platform (beyond what was attributable to increase in frequency). To study how people’s brains respond to TV ads after seeing that same ad on a mobile phone or on TV, we commissioned Neuro-Insight, a neuromarketing agency in the US.


In September 2015, we measured the brain activity of 100 volunteer participants in the Neuro-Insight lab. During the 2-day test period, the participants, US adults ages 21–54, were assigned to 1 of 2 randomly selected groups. On Day 1, participants in one group watched a TV show with ads while participants in the other group browsed their own Facebook News Feed, which included test ads, on their mobile phone. On Day 2, participants in both groups watched the same brand ads during a new TV show. The brand ads shown during the test period represented a mix of verticals—including Automotive (2), CPG (1), Entertainment (1) and Tech/Telco (2)—and creative ad formats, including display and video.Neuro_Ads_Research-01

During the test, participants in each group wore EEG caps that measured responses correlated with real behavior from different parts of their brains. Neuro-Insight was able to measure their responses against neural metrics Approach/Withdrawal—the brain’s response to positive and negative emotion—and 3 key neural metrics that were the focus of our study: 1) Engagement, an indicator of how involved people are, 2) Emotional Intensity, a measure of the strength of emotion being experienced, and 3) Memory Encoding, the rate at which the brain is storing the current experience about the brand into long-term memory, where it can be recalled more than a few minutes later. This metric is recorded for the left brain as Memory Encoding detail and for the right brain as Memory Encoding global.

Understanding the multiscreen impact

Higher levels of brain activity were reported among participants who saw ads on Facebook first and then watched TV ads the next day. This result was consistent across all metrics measured. For Memory Encoding, we saw that participants first primed with the TV ad performed below the 50th percentile for Memory Encoding when they viewed the TV ad on Day 2. Meanwhile, participants first primed with the ad on Facebook scored above average on this metric.Neuro_Ads_Research-02Neuro-Insight has published research on the impact of brain activity, Memory Encoding, and its correlation with purchase behavior and in-market sales data, suggesting that participants primed with brand ads on Facebook in Day 1 were more likely to make purchase decisions once they saw the TV ad on Day 2. Neuro-Insight believes that, within this study, the ads on Facebook used to prime the TV ads acted as a teaser. The ad potentially drove participants’ interest in the brand during the second exposure to the ad on TV, similar to when we watch a trailer for a movie.

Video creative with screen appeal

Beyond understanding how ads on different screens impact later ad exposures, we also wanted to understand if different video ad creative also affected later ad exposures. To test this, we used 2 types of video ads: 1) video ads originally produced for TV and 2) video ads optimized for Facebook. The optimized ads were shorter than the repurposed TV ads and included branding early on in the video.

We analyzed the peak branding moments for each video ad when viewed on TV on Day 2. When participants were primed with the optimized videos on Facebook, Neuro-Insight found that these optimized ads were more strongly associated with the brand than the repurposed TV ads, producing the greatest change in the Memory Encoding metric. The strong branding in the optimized video ads was able to increase the brand impact of the later ad exposure when seen on another screen. Participants were more likely to see those branded moments as they browsed through their Facebook News Feed when they were presented early in the creative. Branded moments triggered a stronger reaction when the participants saw the full ads on TV on Day 2.Neuro_Ads_Research-03“This research has helped us understand how to leverage our Facebook advertising more effectively. As a result, we are re-evaluating both the creative production and flighting of Facebook advertising.” – Josh Billig, Senior Market Research Manager, Customer and Market Research, Microsoft


What it means for marketers

Understanding the science behind how our brains respond to ads on mobile and other screens can help inform marketers’ campaign strategies.

Reinforce impact across screen: Multiscreening has made it important for marketers to understand how best to coordinate their messaging across channels. We saw within our research that cross-channel advertising was a highly effective strategy for priming. By running a Facebook ad then a TV ad, marketers can help increase the impact of their campaign across screens.

Maximize mobile’s appeal: Mobile is a compelling advertising platform for marketers. In previously published neuromarketing research commissioned by Facebook, we found that, overall, people were more attentive and tended to feel more positively toward information presented on a smartphone than on a TV. Within this study, cross-channel campaigns first primed with Facebook ads on mobile outperformed TV-only campaigns, showcasing the benefit of including mobile in a campaign plan.

Design with the screen in mind: When designing video creative, marketers should be mindful of where that creative will be viewed. Develop creative for mobile that maintains the essence of an original TV ad by using short clips or imagery from the key brand moments of a TV ad—this could also help prime people for the full TV ad. If the TV ad features related vignettes, marketers could use each vignette as a separate digital asset, creating mobile teasers that link to the overall campaign and ultimately tell a cohesive story across screens.


Source: “Project Primetime” by Neuro-Insight (Facebook-commissioned study of people ages 21–54 in US), Sep 2015.