ME* Conference 2010

Effective IPad Ads Are Clean, Simple and Provoke Emotion, Study Shows

Research Examines Visual Attention, Accessibility and Propulsion

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Mike Haggerty and Betsy Frank discuss the iPad magazine app study at Ad Age's ME* Conference.
Mike Haggerty and Betsy Frank discuss the iPad magazine app study at Ad Age's ME* Conference. Credit: Pete Kolonia
NEW YORK ( -- When it comes to ads on the iPad, a couple things are imperative: the ads can't be frustrating and they need to evoke some emotion from the user.

That's according to a study conducted by Time Inc., Interpublic Groups of Cos.' Universal McCann and biometrics and neuroscience marketing company EmSense. Mike Haggerty, senior VP and director-marketing accountability research at UM, and Betsy Frank, chief research and insights officer at Time Warner's Time Inc., discussed the study's findings at Ad Age's Media Evolved conference in New York.

The study marked the first time that biometrics research has been conducted on advertising within iPad magazine apps, providing scientific evidence of how users engage and respond to ads. A key finding is that engagement on the iPad is complex and consists of three elements: visual attention, defined as an ad's power to grab a reader's attention and make the user spend more time on the ad; accessibility, which measures whether an ad offers easy entry points to stay on the ad or go deeper; and propulsion, or the ability to move from page one of an ad through to the interactive elements and features.

The study was conducted on 180 iPad owners in Chicago and San Francisco, using a combination of EEG readings on emotion and cognition, as well as eye tracking, surveys and one-on-one interviews, to reveal emotional, cognitive and visual responses to ads embedded in several Time Inc. publications including People and Sports Illustrated.

Mr. Haggerty said that high-scoring ads in the study had a clean look -- they weren't repurposed internet ads and they didn't have a lot of text. He added that when emotion and cognition measured high, the user was drawn into the ad. High emotion and low cognition were preferable readings -- meaning, the ad produced positive emotions without prompting the user to think too much. Negative emotion and high cognition indicated the user was frustrated.

Confusing interactive features or superfluous buttons generally elicited frustration in the user, ending in what Mr. Haggerty called a lack of propulsion, or a wasted opportunity to connect a user to a brand.

"Too many buttons adds frustration, which has a negative cognitive effect. Keep the consumer in mind as you create touch points because they represent a call to action. Make sure the consumer understands benefits of going deeper into ads. Create easily displayed video and buttons that inform next step," said Ms. Frank.

Mr. Haggerty said of the study's results and the implications for brands: "We see opportunity for convergence of creative and media. We should think in ways that are fundamentally different and develop the best practices and guidelines to make iPad advertising that is effective."

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