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The Neuroscience Behind Print Advertising

02 December
Photo credit: cblue98 on Flickr

Photo credit: cblue98 on Flickr

Magazine content is now available in more formats than ever, through the web, mobile apps, streaming video, and even podcasts. But marketers and advertisers shouldn’t be too quick to count print media out just yet. In a recent white paper from MPA – The Association of Magazine Media, Scott McDonald writes about the lasting impact and efficacy of print magazine advertising, with findings backed by sophisticated neuroscience studies.

(NB: Scott is my brother and longtime professional collaborator through his work at Time Warner, Conde Nast and currently, Nomos Research.)

“Consumers continue to read magazine media in their various forms and formats, in print and on the various digital platforms and devices on which they are available,” Scott writes. Among his surprising findings was that popular culture and fashion magazines have a greater number of readers age 18-24 than 10 or 20 years ago.

Advertisers struggle to find the secret to capturing audience attention in a “noisy” digital environment. Scott found that “print magazines perform well against important advertiser KPIs such as ad recall, persuasion, brand consideration, purchase intention and actual purchase—even when there is a lot of ‘noise’ from other media present in the marketplace”. The bottom line is that print magazines still deliver strong advertiser return on investment.

Where does neuroscience fit in? Recent academic literature describes the differences between reading on paper and reading on screen, with much of its data coming from neuroscience research. Studies have shown that reading from screens is changing the structure and functions of our brains, and there are growing concerns that technology is rewiring our brains in negative ways.

Scott’s takeaways about digital vs. print content:

• Reading on paper is slower and deeper. Reading on screen is faster and more in “scan” mode
• Paper-based reading benefits from more focused attention, less distraction, less anxiety related to interruption, multi-tasking and cognitive load
• Paper-based reading is widely associated with better transfer to long-term memory and clearer comprehension
• Memory and comprehension from paper-based reading is likely enriched by the multi-sensory experience of holding and manipulating paper
• In the case of advertising, print advertising activates neural activity associated with desirability and reward

These findings should have advertisers reconsidering their ad budget in the year ahead. If they’re heavily favoring digital spending over print, Scott writes, “not only are they disregarding consumer demand for print, they are also ignoring print’s possibly superior ability to deliver a reading experience that supports comprehension and retention of—and connection with—their message.”

You can read Scott’s entire white paper here and you can join his webinar discussing the white paper on December 8th at 9 am Pacific/12 noon Eastern.

What are your thoughts about print advertising vs. digital? Let us know in the comments or Tweet us @SayWhatcr

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