SYDNEY: Advertisers have mere milliseconds to attract digital audiences, according to new research which also identifies the type of creative most likely to achieve this.

Australian publisher Fairfax carried out an eye-tracking research study to analyse the visual behaviour of both desktop and smartphone readers of its Sydney Morning Herald site,, and to explore the effectiveness of different advertising formats.

The headline finding was the incredibly short time advertisers have in which to make an impact, which tallies with recent Facebook research which suggested that people were able to recall content from their mobile newsfeed with as little as 0.25 seconds of exposure. (For more, read Think impact not views: mobile-first advertising that moves the needle.)

Accordingly, creative needs to be clear and simple if readers are to register anything useful. That means having few elements in order to avoid clutter and avoiding complex messages, while the use of contrasting colours, or making effective use of brand colours, can further aid this process

The Fairfax study found that Flight Centre ads had performed best as the travel retailer had combined these elements along with a prominent logo display.

But creative is only part of the battle for attention; positioning is also vital – more so than ad size, although that too plays a part.

For example, on mobile a break-up middle ad position on a home page scored an average ad view of 1.56 and visual penetration of 86%, CMO reported. But the comparable figures for a banner top ad position were 0.86 and 41%.

Better than either of these, however, is native advertising, providing it is done well – being relevant, on brand and featuring strong visuals.

Brand discover articles delivered 20 times greater cut-through than standard ads, Fairfax reported, with consumers spending an average of 50 seconds with these.

Targeting and cross-platform synchronisation can also help boost ad recall, the study added.

Data sourced from CMO; additional content by Warc staff