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Remotely Entertaining: Should marketers care about app 'addiction'?

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The average smartphone user checks their apps a whopping 88 times a day, according to new research from Hearts & Science and Omnicom Media Group RISE—and it seems to be affecting more than attention spans.

The agency's three-part study looked at mobile behavior, how people use apps, and the neurological impact of viewing ads. For that last part, researchers examined biometrics, eye-tracking and facial coding to see how people responded to advertising in traditional linear TV and mobile apps. Turns out, while consumers' "biometric intensity" decreases when watching TV ads and is neutral when exposed to native units, it increases in negative emotional reactions when interrupted by mobile take-over units, the research says.

Given that close relationship between people and their phones, and the mental impact ads can have, marketers, the researchers believe, marketers should consider both the commercial viability and social responsibility of their work.

"There's a business model of addiction," says Tristan Harris, co-founder of the Center for Humane Technology. "Behind the screen, people don't realize there's a thousand engineers who know exactly how the user psychology works and who deploy different techniques to basically keep them hooked—not because they're evil or diabolical, but because there's only so much attention out there and to get it, you have to get more and more aggressive."

Harris and Hearts & Science CEO Scott Hagedorn joins Ad Age for a deeper look at the study and to talk about advertising in an ethical way. Watch to find out more.

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