Heather Andrews, a founder of market research firm Neuro-Insight, explained to the Warc Next Generation Research conference how it had used steady state topography to measure brain activity in Australian viewers watching four live episodes of The X-Factor, the talent show.
In addition, head cameras were deployed to pinpoint the times when people picked up their phone or tablet to access social media and this was then synched with the brain data. (Warc subscribers can read a full report on the event at Warc Next Generation Research 2014.)
The results indicated an initial peak in brain activity when social media was involved. But in the immediately following period, as the brain recalibrated to catch up with what was happening on television, the level of interaction increased: Andrews reported a 9% spike which continued through to an ad break.
Not only that but, the effect appeared to be cumulative, as by the end of the programme there was a net 26% increase in engagement.
In a further finding that will interest advertisers, she suggested that the nature of the interaction changed, as people were more receptive to new information and took in more detail when they returned to the programme after using social media.
David Fletcher, head of analytics and insights at agency MEC, said the research showed that social media was not a threat to television advertising. He argued it demonstrated an opportunity for broadcasters to build loyalty and drive ratings.
Separately, ITV, the UK commercial broadcaster, revealed that more advertisers were using second screen advertising and more viewers were engaging with brands via its apps as TV ads aired.
"It's a medium where people are swiping and clicking anyway [as they use apps to play along with the programme on air] so when it gets to the ad break they are in a more receptive state," Jon Block, controller of commercial digital products at ITV, told Marketing Week.
Data sourced from Warc, Marketing Week