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Fox School researchers: Consumers more likely to recall printed ads than digital ones

April 3, 2017 //
Photo of Dr. Paul A. Pavlou, Dr. Angelika Dimoka and Dr. Vinod Venkatraman
Dr. Paul A. Pavlou, Dr. Angelika Dimoka and Dr. Vinod Venkatraman.

Even in today’s digital age, a printed advertisement is more likely to stick with a consumer than its online counterpart.

Mixed-media marketing campaigns are much more likely to succeed when they incorporate a print medium, according to researchers from Temple University’s Fox School of Business.

Neuromarketing research by three Fox School professors explored which combination of digital and print media left the strongest imprint on the brain. A grant from the United States Postal Service Office of the Inspector General (USPS OIG) helped finance the study.

The laboratory component of their study asked participants to view the same combination of advertisements on two occasions over a two-week period. The study relied on traditional, self-reported measures and the recording of brain activity through a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner.

When test subjects submitted to self-reported measures, the researchers found that the participants who had seen advertisements in only one format (whether twice in print or twice in digital, as opposed to one of each) were best at recalling the ads and their content.

According to data procured from the fMRI portion of the study, there was evidence that the same format shown twice, particularly with the physical format, produced associations with higher memory. Lastly, greater activation in brain areas that have been associated with desirability or subjective value was found for products advertised twice in the physical format, denoting greater engagement of these regions in the computations of the underlying subjective value and desirability.

“The primary finding for us was that sequencing, the order in which a test subject saw the ads, does not seem to matter as much as the presence of a physical component,” said Dr. Angelika Dimoka, Associate Professor of Marketing and Management Information Systems. “Under these circumstances, we noticed a stronger activation of the memory center of the brain. This is known as the hippocampus, which is located in the medial temporal lobe.”

Dimoka completed the study with Dr. Paul A. Pavlou, the Milton F. Stauffer Professor of Marketing and Management Information Systems, and Dr. Vinod Venkatraman, Assistant Professor of Marketing. Dimoka and Venkatraman serve as Director and Associate Director, respectively, of Temple’s Center for Neural Decision Making.

The research team’s findings complemented their May 2015 study. This previous study, also commissioned by the USPS OIG, sought a better understanding of consumer decision making through human response to physical, printed media and its digital counterpart. (In that study, printed ads generated a greater neural response than did digital ads.)

“Our newer study differed, in that we examined whether sequencing would play a role,” said Pavlou, who also serves as the Fox School’s Senior Associate Dean of Research, Doctoral Programs, and Strategic Initiatives. “In the end, it did not matter whether a physical ad was viewed before or after a digital ad had been viewed, so long as a physical ad was included somewhere within the combination.”

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