Consumer responses to advertising in news content varies significantly depending on the medium used, according to a study published by the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR).

The article was written by Andrea Ciceri (from neuroscience research firm SenseCatch), Vincenzo Russo (IULM University), Giulia Songa (SenseCatch), Giorgio Gabrielli (of publisher News 3.0 and IULM University) and Jesper Clement (Copenhagen Business School).

And their study used a mock newspaper – based on a real-life publication – to show 72 “habitual newspaper readers” ads in print, on a website accessed using a laptop, and in a PDF file viewed on a tablet.

In all, 25 real and static ads appeared in the three media, and the “advertisements were identical in the three media and had the same size (in proportion to the page size)”, the authors stated.

Using eye-tracking and electroencephalography (EEG) brain scanning, the study assessed the “fixation time spent on advertisements”, memorisation and a “frustration index” (defined as a “state of perceived irritation” when viewing ads).

When the authors looked at fixation time, they found that “the value was the lowest for the website medium compared with both the tablet and the paper media”.

In terms of memorisation, the “participants who used the web medium had the lowest value in the memory performance index, whereas the highest value was achieved by participants who used the tablet medium”, they wrote.

“Participants spent less time watching advertisements, thus remembering fewer of the advertisements, when they were reading the newspaper on a website.”

One possible explanation for consumers’ response to online ads is often described using the phrase “banner blindness” – namely, the idea that people soon learn about the appearance and location of website ads – and begin to ignore them.

Using the EEG “frustration index”, by contrast, the scores were lowest on the web, “whereas during tablet advertising exposures the values were the highest, on average”, the authors explained.

“This could be explained by the minor amount of attention that readers, on average, spent on advertising conveyed by website, which might have elicited a consequently smaller amount of irritation and annoyance, as reflected in the EEG frustration index,” they added.

Looking at the results overall, the study argued there was “a similar behavior reaction to advertising conveyed by tablet and paper. The web, in contrast, was characterized by a typical and very different reaction to advertising stimuli.

“These differences related to advertising performance could be due to different reading behaviors that characterize each medium.”

Sourced from Journal of Advertising Research; additional content by WARC staff