Effectiveness of ads on smartphone vs TV

I came across this study, commissioned by Facebook, investigating how people respond to visual content delivered on a smartphone vs. a television. It was published in 2015, so you may know about it, already. But, if you don’t, read on as it is very interesting.


The study exposed research participants to video ads on the two different platforms (i.e., smartphone and TV), and used biometric indicators, such as eye movement or heart rate, to assess how they reacted to the adverts at a basic, physiological level. In the case of the smartphone, the videos appeared within the Facebook news feed. In the case of the television, the videos appeared in the ad breaks of a TV show.

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These are the key findings from the study.


  • Attention – Attention to the advert was significantly higher on the smartphone than on the TV.
  • Emotion – Emotional involvement was similar for both platforms. But participants felt more positively towards the advert when it was shown on the smartphone than when it was shown on TV.
  • Engagement – Overall engagement levels were similar for both media. However, ads that told a story performed better overall. Attention peaks within the first 10 seconds. Short ads performed best on mobile. Mental effort was highest for ads shown on TV.
  • Retention – Message recall was similar on both media. Recall was highest when the ad was first seen on TV, and then on the smartphone.


In nutshell, mobile content has an important role to play in the communications mix, especially if paired with TV. It works best if short, and if telling a story.


These findings become particularly powerful when paired with another study published by Facebook, showing that people associate mobile social networks (i.e., accessing Facebook or Instagram on their smartphones) with excitement and inspiration. Hence, content that resonates with these gratifications is likely to be particularly effective. Conversely, the same study showed that people associate TV viewing with relaxation, which is at odds with the higher mental effort required when processing video content on TVs noted that above (see bullet point on engagement).


Images source

What do you think of these findings? You probably sensed this, already, from your own experience. But I found these two reports really interesting, especially when considered together.

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