You’ve all heard the old adage—meet the right customer with the right content at the right time, and all will be well with your pipeline.

The thing is, following this rule is sort of like driving around in a car without a wheel. It’s not going to work if you don’t have the final piece—the right mindset.

A customer’s mindset matters.

Think about it—that video ad that you’re looking to serve an environmentally conscious mother about your new line of organic diapers is probably received more positively on her mobile device on her morning commute than it is playing on the TV in the background while she’s trying to get her kids ready for school.

Those are two different mindsets.

And we’re not just talking about ads here. Maybe she’s never heard of your brand. Maybe she doesn’t even know there’s an option out there for organic baby clothing, let alone diapers. In this case, she might need some education on the matter in the form of one of your fantastically produced, well thought out and poignant explainer videos—when will she be ready for that?

When exactly is the moment when she’s looking to discover something new?

That’s an entirely different mindset, and also happens to be the question we want to answer. We worked with Nielsen to answer this question, as well as understand how these mindset differs across different ad platforms.


The study 

If you want to see when consumers are paying attention, the eyes have the answer.

You’re probably not watching something if you’re not looking at it, and if you’re looking at it for awhile, you’re probably interested in what you’re viewing.

In this case, Nielsen and Taboola teamed up and used the BrainVu AI platform to look into consumer’s eyes and get to know them a lot better. Specifically, in two ways:

  • Where were they paying the most attention to video ads?
  • Where were they responding to video ads, emotionally?

Where attention is high and participants are emotionally responsive, they’re in the right mindset to see your video ad.

We had 60 participants in the United States watch the same video ads on Taboola, Facebook and YouTube, all on a mobile device.

BrainVu’s technology worked its magic and identified different biomarkers—any bodily indicator that can be measured (in this case, eye movements)—to measure participant’s attentiveness and emotions while watching.

Basically, we used science to see whether or not these people were ready to see the ad.

Before we dive in, we know what you’re thinking—what is attention?

Heading back to those biomarkers we just talked about, attention was measured by four things: 

  1. Change in focus. Did their eyes move away from the ad?
  2. Dispersion of focus. Were they looking at a variety of things on the page, or just the ad?
  3. Gaze density. Were they zoned out when viewing the ad, or really paying attention?
  4. Cognitive load. Was their brain hard at work, or were they feeling easy-breezy?



OK, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty of the results. In short:

People paid attention to YouTube’s Pre-roll video ads 25% less than on Taboola & Facebook.

BrainVu’s AI technology can measure all of these things by tracking micro-movements in participants eyes and pupils—cool right?

To the left, you can see how people’s attention fluctuated across the different platforms in real-time.

This is where people don’t pay attention to your video ads.

We can’t be sure, but we think the reason people engaged less with YouTube’s Pre-roll ads is because the experience was more intrusive.

They were there to view a specific piece of content, a video they had either search for or clicked on, and couldn’t opt-out of the intrusive ad—but they did stay on the page. 

Why? Something called cognitive ad avoidance, which is when consumers ignore ads but don’t want to leave the page—in this case, because they’re waiting for the content they came for. According to some studies, like this one done on podcast ads, this could actually back-fire and cause consumers to like you less.

Back to our original example about the organic diapers. If that particular mother is on YouTube while at the office to watch a how-to video about an excel spreadsheet formula she needs, and is interrupted with an ad for organic diapers (after all, this is the right ad for the right person), she likely won’t respond, because she’s not in the right mindset.

For marketers, this means you could be paying for completed video views or impressions that literally mean nothing to the consumer. 

With feed experiences, like those on Taboola and Facebook, you can keep scrolling if you don’t want to see something, and there’s no adverse effects.

In a feed environment, consumers are in a mindset where they are ready to discover something interesting and new, because they’re there to look for what to consume next.

Don’t forget about the emotional connection we have with ads. And the question—what is an emotional response?

Back to the biomarkers, all measured with micro-movements in the eyes. Emotional response is:

  • Alertness. How ‘watchful’ were participants?
  • Stress. How tense were their eye movements?
  • Cognitive load. Again, how hard were they thinking?

And of course, emotion can be positive or negative, depending on the content. Sad ads will make you feel sad, like those you’ll often see from nonprofits looking for donations to help sick animals or perhaps the poor. Happy ads will make you feel happy, like those you might see from restaurants looking to attract people to have a good time.

Any emotion can be effective, whether positive or negative, depending on your content and your brand goals. Here, we’re measuring the intensity of that emotion.

This is where people do emotionally respond to video ads.

Here’s the short version of what we found tracking those biomarkers:

People had the lowest amount of emotional response when watching YouTube’s pre-roll ads. It got better on Facebook, and even better with Taboola.

As you can imagine, at Taboola we were pretty excited about that. The video ads in our feed prompted a 23% higher emotional response than YouTube, and a 13% higher emotion response than Facebook.

In direct contrast with attention, we have a hunch that this is the case because of where we serve branded content. 

Our content lives at the bottom of the article, after the people are finished consuming the content they came for—it’s not intrusive.

Back to our mother. Maybe she didn’t watch a YouTube explainer video to learn about that new excel formula, maybe she read an article on the topic instead. When she’s finished, she keeps scrolling and she might see relevant branded content for organic diapers that intrigues her, clicks and reads it quickly or perhaps saves it for later.

She likely to do this because when she’s finished the article, her cognitive load decreased. She’s not focused on anything at the moment, and her mind is therefore open to new information.

So, it’s not just the feed environment, but where they feed lives that affects mindset.

The bottom line: consumers are ready to discover new things in ‘The Moment of Next’

Based on this study we did in partnership with Nielsen, we’re confident that consumers are in what we call the ‘Moment of Next’ at the bottom of an article, in a feed environment—and that this is when they’re most ready to discover something new.

In fact, we already know it’s working.

We worked with Sony Pictures Thailand to help promote the new Spiderverse movie, along with other favorites like Goosebumps and Venom.

Running their commercials on traditional social media sites wasn’t getting them enough reach or impacting their ticket sales. With Taboola, they reached over 194,000 people over the course of their campaign.

We saw similar success with AIG in Israel. They used Taboola Video to reach a new audience, and saw that 50% of people who made a purchase after viewing this campaign started their buyer journey with Taboola. Purchase intent was also uplifted by 30% in just 30 days.

At the end of the day, video is a powerful medium where marketers can effectively reach consumers no matter where it’s placed.

But in order to get that car on the road, you need all four wheels—the right person, with the right content, in the right place, with the right mindset.

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