Cognitive Ease - A Powerful Tactic for Native Advertisers

By Pennylaine Baes

The principles of cognitive ease extend into native advertising, ensuring your audience instantly understands what you’re offering or explaining.


Cognitive ease might sound like something taught in a wellness clinic, but it’s a valuable way to improve the success of your native advertising campaigns.

The term cognitive ease isn’t widely recognized yet, but awareness is growing. It first emerged at the start of the last decade as a way of measuring how easily the human brain can process information.

It underpins established concepts like wayfinding, but it’s also relevant to native advertising. After all, native ads are designed to provide information quickly and simply—a process described by Nobel Prize-winning economist Daniel Kahneman as requiring little or no mental effort. Where cognitive ease diminishes, a state of cognitive strain emerges. This reduces a person’s levels of trust, confidence, and pleasure—the antithesis of effective marketing and advertising.

Applying the principles of cognitive ease can help ensure your native advertising is immediately impactful and resonant.

Ease off the throttle

The human mind is constantly processing, analyzing, and interpreting things with differing levels of complexity. Some scenarios place significant demands on our cognition, which is defined as the process of acquiring knowledge or understanding.

When we have to calculate or interpret, we instinctively become more vigilant and less trusting. Imagine seeing two items advertised for sale in a shop window. One has 50% off its original $30 sticker price, while the other has a 25% discount on an already-reduced price of $23.40. Even though the second item has been reduced twice, consumers will have a more positive reaction to the first item because it requires less analysis. The second item demands calculation, which can trigger thoughts of “Do I really need it?”, “Is it a good value or not?”, and other sentiments that are likely to lead to the purchase ultimately being abandoned.

By contrast, interpreting native advertising should be a seamless, almost subconscious process. People are more receptive and positive toward things they can easily understand. An effective ad will immediately make an unambiguous proposition, encouraging or persuading consumers to complete an action (such as clicking through to a product page) without hesitation. The way in which native ads are structured should therefore follow the principles of cognitive ease. It must build confidence and trust in the product or service being advertised, maximizing any sense of pleasure generated by completing the action.

Keep it simple

Don’t assume your audience will be able to identify an obscure cultural reference, or instantly spot a play on words. Simplicity is key—and not just in the avoidance of I-don’t-get-it tropes. Psychological studies have shown that shares in companies with easily pronounced names tend to perform better than tongue-twisting rivals, simply because it’s easier for people to get a grip on. Don’t include polysyllabic terms in headlines unless it’s absolutely essential.

Paint a pretty picture

If your native ad campaign is about the latest in-car technology, show a picture of an infotainment system with satellite mapping on it. Don’t show a close-up of an alloy wheel, which might make people think the campaign is focused on automotive performance. The picture you choose for native ads needs to directly tie into the landing page content. We explained how to choose irresistible native ad images in this recent blog.

Build sentences effectively

Many native ads have a single line of copy with no punctuation, which is fine in itself. If you want to convey more information, use commas and periods to indicate where each sentence’s emphasis lies. The sentences in this paragraph each feature a single comma, making them easy to read and interpret. They’re also less than 20 words long, helping you retain key information once you’ve finished reading.

Do A/B testing

You might think the image you chose or the headline you wrote is self-explanatory, but audiences lacking your insider knowledge may disagree. This is where A/B testing can prove or disprove cognitive ease in action. Running two campaigns simultaneously lets you monitor which of two alternate ads gets better results. With Brax’s granular analysis of individual campaigns, you can see which ads are achieving the higher CTR, conversion rate, or engagement across varying audience demographics.

Keeping the wheels turning with cognitive ease

Brax can help you develop brilliantly simple and effective native ad campaigns. We work with the big native platforms including Revcontent and Taboola, Outbrain and You can manage different campaigns across multiple platforms from a single user-friendly interface, adjusting settings in real time to optimize every cent of ad spend.

Find out more by signing up for a 15-day free trial, or get in touch to ask for our advice about creating simple yet effective native ad campaigns.