Virtual media have exploded onto the scene in recent years, while physical media such as print and direct mail have lost ground. Could this shift affect users’ absorption of advertising information? 

Categories: Holmen Paper , Paper


In collaboration with the Centre for Experimental Consumer Psychology at Bangor University, the Royal Mail in the UK wanted to investigate whether there are any differences in the effectiveness of communications in physical and virtual media, i.e. material versus digital.


The study focused on how the brain processes and reacts to physical marketing material, compared with digital material presented on a screen. To understand and see how the brain reacts to physical and virtual stimuli, the researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to identify, in real time, which parts of the brain were most involved in processing advertising. The participants were presented with existing marketing ads, as well as made up images that were used to prove that physical material is more stimulating than visual material. The material was shown both on screen (virtual/digital) and in paper form (physical) while the MRI scanner was running.


kille läser tidnig framör en vägg med tidningar 



Printed material creates a deeper impression in the brain, since the brain perceives physical material to be more genuine, as it is more easily linked to the memory and thus has greater meaning. Physical material requires more emotional processing, which is important for the memory and brand associations. Printed text increases the brain’s response to the message, which suggests that people relate the given information to their own thoughts and feelings.

In summary, the research clearly shows that printed material prompts greater emotional processing compared with digital material. Printed material is perceived to be more real and can thus be more easily stored in the memory. It also generates more emotions, which should help to develop positive associations towards a brand.



TEXT: Martina Nicklasson / Power of Print

Source: Millward Brown

Holmen AB, P.O. Box 5407, SE-114 84 Stockholm, Sweden. 

Tel: +46 8 666 21 00  E-mail:


Modern Slavery Act Transparency Statement


  • Login
  • Personal data (GDPR)
  • Cookies
  • Search

© Holmen Group 2019