SYDNEY: Humans are hard-wired to pay more attention to their surroundings when not at home, meaning they are significantly more alert to out-of-home messaging and significantly more inclined to act as a result, research has shown.

Australia's Outdoor Media Association (OMA) conducted a study where 43 participants wore eye tracking glasses to monitor what they were looking at and had GSR (Galvanic Skin Response) devices attached to the hands of participants to measure their levels of arousal – defined as the condition of sensory alertness, mobility and readiness to respond.

Thus, when watching TV news, for example, participants averaged 22 spikes in arousal over a four minute period. This compared to 55 spokes during car travel and 62 spikes during a walk which included an opportunity to see outdoor media.

Overall, the findings revealed that when consumers were out of home they were two times more alert and likely to act on messages than when they were at home.

The research also showed that consumers were 2.5 times more alert out of home compared to screen time at home.

Dr Phil Harris, a neuroscientist and Honorary Fellow at the University of Melbourne who helped analyse the findings, observed that the research methodology "captured people in their natural environments" and gave an accurate reading on their levels of arousal.

"We're wired to scan the environment for events that can impact on us or things that are linked to our goals," he explained. "There's more to react to, therefore we're more likely to act. It's a primal thing – survive and thrive.

"This is important news for marketers as we know arousal drives attention and memory encoding, both of which are key factors that underpin advertising message impact," he added.

Liz Farquharson, Director of Hoop Group, the OMA's research partner in the study noted how higher arousal rates worked to prime the mind, "making it more alert and ready for receiving and taking action on ad messages".

The Australian out-of-home advertising industry has registered significant growth over the past couple of years, helped by technological developments. Most recently it posted an 18% year-on-year increase in the second quarter of 2016. 

Data sourced from OMA; additional content by Warc staff