Study: Full-page interstitials alienate users, send them racing for the X-it

However, opt-in, contextually relevant video saw positive response from users.


Various studies appear to show that people don’t like interstitial ads. Google wants to ban most interstitials following a search click. And a recent “neuroscience” study from MediaBrix and Neurons Inc. comes to a similar conclusion.

The companies used eye-tracking and other biometric techniques to test various in-app mobile video ad units for user engagement and response. What the research found, not surprisingly, is that in-app video units that were “contextually relevant” and opt-in were better received than full-page interstitials. (More detail and findings are available here.)

The interstitials sent people immediately to look for ways to x-out and remove the ads, as indicated by the eye-tracking heat map in the screen shot below.


The study showed ads from “either a global confection brand [or] MillerCoors” to users and monitored their physical and emotional reactions. The contextually relevant, “embedded, opt-in ads” performed much better across various KPIs and brand metrics than full-page interstitial video ads.

The full-page interstitials generated what Mediabrix called “fight-or-flight responses,” at 2X that of the embedded opt-in ads. People immediately sought the “x button” to get rid of the ads covering the screen. By contrast, subjects watched the opt-in video units. According to the study, “close to 90 percent of viewers watched the full 30-second video, compared to only 25 percent when exposed to an interstitial.”

Opt-in ad viewers also spent “three times as much time fixated on the brand creative watching the embedded, opt-in ad, and they’re eight times more cognitively engaged with said ad.” They also were more receptive to and remembered the ad messaging. In addition, they had more positive feelings about the brand. The report said, “Those who experienced the opt-in, contextual ad unit had four times [the] feeling of positive motivation regarding the brands in question.”

Below is a capture of the opt-in video ad units, which obscure only part of the device screen.


There are some more nuanced findings in the study. The bottom line, however, is that marketers must respect the user experience and better integrate ads in non-intrusive ways. Yet an ad that is too well-integrated and non-intrusive may not be noticed, or may not be sufficiently identified as an ad for regulatory purposes.

By the same token, units or methods that are too disruptive will have a potentially negative brand impact as in the study discussed above. So brands and mobile display marketers generally must find a middle path, which the study purports to identify in the form of the opt-in units.


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