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Touching is believing

John Sturdy
John Sturdy (former) Account Director

‘Engagement’ is a word we hear all the time in media and with increasing frequency it has become a default term with little-to-no clarification of what is actually meant.

Earlier this month Newsworks presented their latest study which attempts to measure a form of specific engagement with advertising: touch.

‘Touching is Believing’ showcases tactile advertising (print and tablet) against a control (PC) to determine how much of an increase across several key metrics can be attributed to the power of touch alone.

After several anecdotes as to how touch is an integral part of our development as humans, the presenters made the point that it is a sense that is all too overlooked within the context of the media mix.

The results shown proved to make a powerful case for giving touch increased consideration: the isolation effect of touch in tablet newspapers created a 28% increase in spontaneous awareness.

However, it reaches beyond this platform and was proven to also extend into newsprint.

Those that physically touched the print ads within the sample group rated newspaper ads’ key attributes significantly higher than those that did not, for example:

  • Honest and sincerity +41%
  • Confidence +30%

Importantly, it also showed an increase in the propensity to purchase and recommend the products in those ads featured.

With tablet-owners now expecting (and before long demanding, no doubt) ads on their device to have some form of interactive element, it’s no surprise that there were further positive scores on this platform.

Perhaps indicative of the societal make-up of tablet owners - and indeed the platform itself - there was an increase on perception of quality shown:

  • High quality perception score of ads were +5%
  • Response to ‘prefer to buy even if a similar brand is cheaper’ was +15%

Admittedly the creative execution does have a role to play, with those including life-sized imagery proving to be more alluring to readers, though this is not necessarily a defining factor.

The research presented back to those in attendance was most certainly refreshing, not least for the explicitly well-defined focus of the piece. Whilst the study of behavioural economics will continue to develop further, delving deeper into the isolated effects of specific senses provides a pause for thought.

One does have to wonder, however, whether there is any merit in the argument that readers of print newspapers touch ads that are placed on the outside edge of the right-hand page by the very virtue of their positioning. With News UK’s neuroscience research having been taken to market showing how papers were viewed (using eye tracking technology), surely we can now start to get beyond the classic left vs. right debate. It may take more convincing that there is a subconscious effect on the reader by simply touching an ad to turn to the next spread.

For those passionate about newsbrands and who follow their continual development, this provides another potent reason for them to be considered at the heart of any multi-dimensional campaign.

This research should be shared with clients, planning teams and creative agencies alike as it can certainly inform the marketing/advertising process at its inception. Whilst not perhaps an imperative at this stage, the power of touch has shown the ability to increase scores across various KPIs, and so those that adopt it and accept the potential benefits could gain a competitive advantage in their categories. The simplest of changes in creative execution, strategic planning and effective implementation could have a strong multiplier effect across any given campaign.

If the next steps taken show a strengthened relationship with the newsbrands themselves, then that can only serve to further consolidate the research already shown.

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