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Hard news is good news for advertisers, according to new neuroscience research

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Newsworks, the marketing body for UK national newsbrands, has published research showing that ads which appear around hard news stories* elicit more and higher peaks in memory encoding and emotional intensity than ads in soft news stories.

Presented yesterday at an IAB Town Hall event by Newsworks’ insight director Denise Turner, the research shows that there is no evidence that hard news stories create dislike – in fact, hard news stories generate a higher “approach” response, rather than a negative withdrawal response.

According to Newsworks, the findings raise the question of whether an over-zealous approach to brand safety, for example, through blacklisting and keyword blocking is really necessary.

The research, conducted in partnership with Neuro-Insight, shows that the average dwell time is 1.4 times higher for advertising in hard news stories, which creates potential for brands to capitalize on the increased attention of readers.

Newsworks also found that readers are more actively engaged in a hard news environment and there is an increased likelihood of key advertising messages being absorbed. This is because of the higher and more frequent peaks in memory encoding and emotional intensity.

The findings support recent Newsworks’ studies that show the benefits of placing ads in quality news environments, including Context Matters together with AOP and The Value of Quality project with GroupM.

Commenting on the research, Nick Welch, VP business development, UK and Northern Europe at ADmantX, says, “The research presents us with evidence that supports what most of us have probably already suspected – consumers naturally engage more and on a deeper level with hard news.”

Welch, however, adds a caveat, “It is still important that brands filter out with precision those articles that are specifically unsuitable for them. For example, McDonalds should not be advertising next to an investigative piece on HFSS regulation in the food industry, but should be OK to run against ‘negative politics’, ‘economic uncertainty’ or ‘rising crime’, but this must be a conversation between all parties involved.

“What is needed is a way of reading articles through advanced technology to better understand context. Rule-based Natural language processing (NLP) is now advanced enough to process an article and understand not just the words that are being used but their meaning, including the ability to understand the sentiment and emotional qualities of the page.”

Read the full research story here

*Hard news stories covers breaking news, political news, conflict and crime stories. Soft news stories include celebrity news, lifestyle stories, royal news and human interest stories.