Thursday, December 13, 2012

Hockey Sticks, Mobile Licks and Measuring Arousal

If I had a hockey stick for the fistful of grandiose mobile predictions I have heard (and made) over the last decade, I would be able to start a National Hockey League franchise.  Unfortunately, the NHL is currently on strike, so I will leave this dead metaphor hanging in mid-air begging for icy mercy.

My brother-in–law just got a mobile phone and based on the Eternal Law of Device Penetration, this man is a Laggard.  Sorry Steve, but the family has done its best to convert you over the years, and you have only yourself to blame for coming so late to the party.  That said, this is about market segmentation, brother, and decidedly not about your character, per se.  But we will have plenty of time to discuss your behavior over the holidays.  But can it be that the smartphone celebration is already winding down?

It is hard not to embrace the hockey-stick metaphor.  PC sales have flattened as sales of mobile phones and tablets have soared.  The disruption of old media and old portals and old attitudes continues at a ripe pace and this can only be good news for mobile.  Henry Blodget, CEO of the Business Insider, reminds us that what is holding the business of mobile back is the business of mobile where we are still exchanging analog dollars for digital dimes.  Simply put, the effective CPM for the desktop is $3.50; for mobile. $0.75.  Certainly targeted, location-based and video ads are already changing these percentages and the increased interest on the part of marketers in “native” advertising is bound to move the mobile needle.  But as Blodget notes, the smartphone screen is still really small.

Folks at the IPG Media Lab have raised the right question at the right time:  “Are All Screens Created Equal?”  This research examines whether a device and or screen have an impact on the effectiveness of video ads.  Do other variables, including ad clutter, creative quality, type of video content, and location of consumption, play a role in video ad effectiveness?  The Lab looked at connected TV, linear TV, mobile and the PC at the IPG Media Lab in San Francisco.  Attention was measured by eye-tracking hardware, excitement by biometric bracelets; and ad recall in the traditional manner.

Screen type played a role in ad recall but the differences were not marked: PC (43%); Connected TV (38%); Mobile (35%); and Linear TV (27%). Arousal levels, measured by distinct moments of excitement in each record, were also fairly similar among screens: Connected TV (8%); Mobile (4%); Linear TV (7%); and the PC (7%). The researchers found that “attention levels are high particularly for screens consumers are most familiar with—TV and PC.”

The Media Lab reports that females tend to be more attentive while males show a higher level of excitement.  While TV performs well on attention and excitement measures, this does not translate into strong recall.  Not surprisingly, researchers have found that ad clutter undermines the ad effectiveness of TV.

In summarizing their findings, researchers suggest that, overall, “the much-hyped screen size did not play a role in ad effectiveness.”   But controllable facts such as ad clutter and perceived lack of creativity did.  Similarly, the most engaging content attracted the most attention.  And locations matters: “lean-back environments with less distraction, such as at home in bed, enhance attentiveness.”

This research is certainly not the final word on screen size.  But it might place a little more emphasis on clutter-free environments and encourage advertising agencies to conduct more creative testing, rather than dismiss mobile out-of-hand.

And one wonders what the “always on” smartphone metric might have to contribute to this conversation.

I don’t wear biometric bracelets, but am still very excited.

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