Mobile Marketing Association Reveals Brands Need a “First Second Strategy” | MMA Global

Mobile Marketing Association Reveals Brands Need a “First Second Strategy”

March 6, 2019

Groundbreaking Scientific Neuroscience Cognition Research Assesses the Time Needed to Trigger Cognitive Processing of Advertising in a Mobile Environment is Faster than the Blink of an Eye

New York, March 6, 2019 – As the industry trade body focused on architecting the future of marketing, the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), today announced the results of a Cognition Neuroscience Research project. In collaboration with The Advertising Research Foundation (The ARF), the trade group focused on unbiased quality in research on advertising, media and marketing, and Neurons Inc., an applied neuroscience research company, the MMA set out to understand how consumers process information in a mobile environment.

The research revealed the human brain needs 400 milliseconds (or 4/10th of a second or less than ½ second), to engage with mobile advertising and trigger an imprint, positive or negative. This means consumer time and attention can´t be taken for granted. Essentially, by the time a consumer blinks, their brain has already seen and processed a mobile ad. And more so, by the time it takes for their heart to beat once, they have very likely formed an emotional response (under 7/10ths of a second).

This cognition research is the most recent study aligned to the MMA’s rigorous and intensive research agenda in the areas of marketing measurement, organization design, creative innovation, emerging technologies and more. Using neuroscience to really understand the human brain’s reaction to advertising (actual cognitive process) is a relatively new technique applied to advertising that pushes our knowledge boundaries beyond what previous eye tracking studies allowed. This study is focused on the “opportunity to see” both in mobile and desktop.

“I applaud the MMA for continuing to use science to help marketers really understand how mobile can work harder and smarter to drive their business growth,” said Kristi Argyilan, MMA Board Member and SVP Marketing Media and Measurement, Target Corporation. “Understanding the point at which cognition takes place gives marketers a real opportunity to better leverage our media and creative strategies.”

More specifically the data shows:

  1. Cognitive process of advertising is fast: The human brain needs less than ½ second to engage with mobile advertising & trigger a reaction, positive or negative.
    • More than 67% of ads tested were already seen and cognitively recognized at 0.4 seconds. 
  2. Time is Relative: Ads in a mobile feed environment get attention faster and trigger stronger cognition, compared to desktop.
    • It took 2-3 seconds for two thirds of desktop ads to be seen and cognitively recognized in comparison to 0.4 seconds for mobile
  3. Our Brain is faster on branding: Cognitive process is accelerated for known brands.
    • Although all ads have the same likelihood of being seen, “well-known” brands stimulate a much faster cognitive and emotional processing given the same time.
  4. Video more quickly and better engages the emotional brain: While static and video ads have the same likelihood of being seen, video ads are twice as likely to create emotional response than static in faster exposure speeds (less than 0.7 seconds).
  5. Weak ads work fast and fail even faster: Weak ads are processed faster and create negative emotional responses in less than a second.
    • Ads that had been shown to have weak brand performance generated only negative motivation in the first second.

The implications to these findings suggest that although brands have been trained to develop 15/30 second creative and media strategies, or even 06/07 second strategies, marketers should now develop plans and strategies that address the first one second. The report from the MMA urges brands to develop a clear “first second” strategy to leverage this critical point of consumer cognition.

“A core guiding principle of the MMA is a commitment to science and truth in marketing for brands, leveraging the most forward-leaning and future oriented research techniques and methodologies.” said Greg Stuart, CEO of the MMA. “The neuroscience cognition research undeniably supports marketers in making better decisions around both their marketing investments and creative strategies.”

A more detailed report is available for MMA marketer members that specifically outlines the critical components to be considered in developing an effective “first second strategy” for both creative and media including:

  1. How to leverage specific visual elements to capture the brain’s attention
  2. The need to contrast ad complexity to the ad’s contextual environment
  3. Why it’s important to tap into the emotional brain immediately
  4. Finding partners that allow you to arbitrage media that is less than a second (MMA believes more research should be done in this area to find value in inventory that is currently under the :01 and :02 second viewability standards)

“This is the first project the ARF has reviewed its certification program – the ARF’s drive for ‘radical transparency’ and truth in advertising research,” said Scott McDonald, CEO of The ARF. “We really appreciate the MMA’s commitment to this level of transparency and being the pilot partner.”

More information for both CMO’s and research wonks can be found at The MMA will continue working with marketers and publishers to raise awareness about this opportunity and we invite the industry to join us as we further our research in this area.  

About the MMA:
Comprised of over 800-member companies globally and 14 regional offices, the MMA is the only marketing trade association that brings together the full ecosystem of marketers, tech providers and sellers working collaboratively to architect the future of marketing, while relentlessly delivering growth today. Anchoring the MMA’s mission are four core pillars; to cultivate inspiration by driving innovation for the Chief Marketing Officer; to build the mobile marketing capabilities for marketing organizations through fostering know-how and confidence; to champion the effectiveness and impact of mobile through research providing tangible ROI measurement; and to advocate for mobile marketers.

Members include:, Adobe, Ahold Delhaize, Allstate, Ally Financial, American Eagle, American Express, AT&T, Bank of America, Calvin Klein, Campbell’s, Carbon, JPMorgan Chase, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Chobani, Choice Hotels, Citi, Clear Channel Outdoor, Colgate Palmolive, Cuebiq, CVS Health, Dunkin’ Brands, eBay, E*TRADE, Electronic Arts, ESPN, Estee Lauder, Facebook, Ford, Foursquare, General Motors Company, Google, Hilton Worldwide, IBM Watson, Jumpshot, Kellogg Company, LinkedIn, L’Oreal, Marriott International, Match Group, Mastercard, McDonald’s, MillerCoors, Monster, NBCU, OpenMarket, OpenX, Pandora, Pfizer, Pinterest, PlaceIQ, Procter & Gamble, RetailMeNot, Salesforce, Samsung, Shire, SITO Mobile, Snap Inc., SUBWAY, Target Inc., The Coca-Cola Company, T- Mobile, Turner Broadcasting, Twitter, Uber, Unilever, Verizon Media Group, Verizon Connect, Vibes, Walmart, Waze, Yieldmo, Zurich and many more. The MMA’s global headquarters are located in New York with regional operations Asia Pacific (APAC), Europe/Middle East/Africa (EMEA) and Latin America (LATAM). For more information about the MMA please visit

About ARF

Technology has been both a boon and a bane to marketers: more ways to connect with customers, but far more complexity. There has never been a more critical need for solid information, standards, and transparency. Businesses can only grow when operating on correct information and real insights -- drawn from empirical research, objective experiments and valid market tests.

Since 1936, the Advertising Research Foundation has been the standard- bearer for unbiased quality in research on advertising, media and marketing. Its powerful knowledge, unifying standards and best practices have bene ted its 400+ member companies many times over. Only the ARF brings together advertisers, agencies, media companies, research companies and ad tech into one conversation about how to be better at what we do.

About Neurons, Inc

Neurons Inc is a consultancy company that applies neuroscience tools and insights to address challenges in today’s business and society. Neurons is a spin-off from the Copenhagen Business School and the Copenhagen University Hospital, and it is a result of an incubation process with Fortune 50 company Lowe’s Home Improvement.

Neurons work is built on the work by Dr. Thomas Z. Ramsøy, who is considered one of the leading scholars and practitioners in the field of applied neuroscience. As part of his work at Neurons, Dr. Ramsøy is also a consultant on applied neuroscience for Fortune 500 companies, governmental agencies and NGOs, and he is on the editorial board of multiple leading scientific journals. Dr. Ramsøy is currently an Adjunct Faculty member at Singularity University in Silicon Valley, CA.

Neurons was formally launched in 2013, but has already grown to have global capabilities, with offices on 4 continents. Today, Neurons consists of an eclectic mix of people, covering disciplines that range from neuroscience to paedagogics, bioengineering to arts, economics to architecture.