Connecting people to brain activity and eye tracking machines to determine how they react to stimulus is an interesting way to determine how people feel about certain topics.

At AdWeek New York today, MediaBrix — an in-app mobile video advertising platform for brands — announced the results of a new study from neuromarketing leaders True Impact and Neurons Inc that does exactly that.

The headline result? Mobile interstitial ads perform terribly in almost every important aspect.

The study tested users’ reactions to ads with the same creative but different delivery formats. The hypothesis: Can brands that offer opt-in, rewarded experiences at specific times achieve higher brand health scores and a stronger purchase intent than those delivered through interstitial ad formats?

Respondents were wired up to neurometric and physical eye-tracking devices, and each consumer was asked to complete a post-exposure interview and survey.

The results are clear. Embedded, opt-in ads that reward attention and are presented within the context of a native app experience gained eight times more mental engagement, more than three times the amount of time spent with the brand, and significantly higher brand recall and positive sentiment than standard interstitial video ads.

Close to 90 percent of rewarded viewers watched the full 30-second video ad, compared to only 25 percent when exposed to an interstitial. And viewers spent 9.5X more time considering the rewarded, opt-in ad over the interstitial ad unit.

In fact, viewers were 2X as likely to have a negative emotional response to a full page interstitial ad than to a rewarded, opt-in ad.

MediaBrix-study-engagement

That said, the interstitial test required that the phone be held horizontally, whereas the opt-in worked in both aspects. How much did that skew the results of the study?

“Even though most app experiences are vertical, and brands are starting to recognize the importance of vertical video, the majority of standard mobile video ads are still presented horizontally,” Ari Brandt, CEO and cofounder at MediaBrix told me. “We chose that format to demonstrate how a still-dominant form of mobile advertising has such a negative impact on real consumer engagement. Less than a third of our subjects turned the screen to watch, and people viewing vertically only watched an average of 14 percent of the video ad. Brands will never get their message across if the delivery of the ad doesn’t put the user experience first.”

The study does compare only two creatives, and they are very different from each other. I wondered if MediaBrix is planning to expand the study, including more respondents and testing a wider range of ads.

“Our goal was to quantify how different delivery methods impact key branding metrics, user receptivity, human attention, and action beyond the ad introduction,” Brandt said. “Moving forward, we do want to explore changes in performance across brand industries like CPG or automotive. We’re excited to work with our key brand partners to identify additional formats that can benefit from this insight.”

So what does the future of mobile advertising look like, and what should brands and agencies focus on for the highest levels of engagement?

“The future of all advertising will have to put the human at the center,” Brandt said. “Mobile advertising must be and will be first to adopt this philosophy, because of how personal and integrated the device is in people’s lives. It helps us organize our day, bank, shop, research, stay entertained, communicate, and more. It’s the first thing we wake up to and the last screen we see at the end of the day.”

That is important, and marketers need to respect how personal smartphones are for their owners.

“Respecting that intimacy and adding value to experiences is paramount in the pursuit of creating receptive users and positive brand-to-consumer interactions on a mobile device,” Brandt said. “To do so, brands and agencies will have to stop buying impressions and start earning attention.”

The full study is available to read via the MediaBrix website.