Important Findings For Print Ads

You might have known that an ad have a very short amount of time to attract consumers. But what you didn’t know is that a Dutch study of the brain’s electrical responses shows that you have 0.3 seconds.

The study’s most striking insight is the processing speed of the human brain.

Within 0.3 seconds, a consumer can decide whether an advertisement is relevant or not. While observing an ad, the brain delivers a quick response depending on the appreciation of the image. It only takes one-third of a second to distinguish the good (relevant) creatives from the bad (irrelevant).

The study used EEG to measure the brain’s electrical response to advertising. A total of 150 ads representing five branches — automotive, cosmetics, fashion, food, and electronics — were observed.


Keep print ads positive and simple:

The most intensive brain reactions were measured when the observed ads contained a simple message and evoked positive emotions. Also, the brand involved was noted to have  influence on the effectiveness of the ad. A well-established brand evokes a quick response of the brain.

The style of communicating also plays a major role. Advertisements appealing to fear or containing bold humour had a negative effect. Such ads will get noticed but tend to evoke a negative response and be valued as odd or shocking. Furthermore, consumers need more time and effort to digest such messages.

That’s related to another lesson from the study: If a consumer doesn’t instantly understand the advertiser’s message, he won’t make further attempts to understand it a second time.

(Left side: negative metaphor – don’t! Right side: clear, positive message – do!)

Learning from the brain study: Dos and Don’ts

The study didn’t only deliver insights about the reaction time of the brain; it also produced several valuable insights.

  1. Uncomplicated ads that evoke positive emotions have proved to be most effective.

  2. Consumers don’t bother to understand the ads. The more effort required, the less attractive the creatives are perceived.

  3. Advertisements using extreme humour and fear are ineffective. On criteria like appreciation and attitude these ads get a bad score. Ads with these elements get noticed, but tend to  evoke a negative assessment.

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