I recently took a class on Decision-Making and Neuroeconomics lead by Dr. Peter Sokol-Hessner. His lab focuses on studying affect and decision-making. Throughout the course I was constantly relating the studies and phenomenon’s to their implications in marketing and advertising.
This session was centered around the first wave of advertising specific studies in affect, decision-making, and consumer neuroscience that can hold their own in the scientific research community. Dr. Manuel Garcia-Garica will be releasing the first consumer neuroscience book later this year. This session is centered around objective studies analyzing the efficacy of advertisements.
In addition to Dr. Manuel Garcia-Garcia of the Advertising Research Foundation the panel consisted of Dr. Aaron Reid of Sentient Decision Science, Mr. Pranav Yadav of Neuro-Insight US, and Ms. Naomi Grewal of Facebook. A more fitting group of panelists on this topic does not exist. Typing during this session was frantic. Neuroimaging is much better than asking “how do you feel about the ads”. fMRI’s look at the variances in blood flow throughout the brain at small increments over a period of time. Eye tracking and facial recognition coding are also effective measurements.
One of the primary focuses in this field has been evaluating and developing cross platform campaigns. Campaign consistency and efficacy across the various media channels, is crucial for modern advertisers to understand. Unified campaigns with the same creative strategy, had significant and consistent activation in areas of the brain associated with memory. This was not the case for inconsistent campaigns. Shockingly 38% of campaigns do not use creative customized to each targeted platform.
65% of audiences for TV ads had their heads down throughout commercials. Leveraging audio is the most effective means of bringing their eyes back to the TV. Once their eyes were back, a 15% increase in emotional activation was observed.
Ad blocking has been an serious threat to digital advertising. 380 million ad blockers are installed on mobile devices and 236 million on desktops and laptops. These ad blockers cost the industry 41.4 billion globally. From my perspective the most effective means of addressing and resolving this issue, is to create a more symbiotic relationship between advertisers and consumers. Data driven targeting coupled with objective research based creative, can allow for advertising which is beneficial for both consumer and advertiser.
Visual focus on TV ads is very central, whereas mobile tends to be right side heavy and wandering. Copy size on mobile is really important, if its too small its significantly less effective. Consumers will be able to see relevant engaging content, and advertisers will be able to get their message and value proposition into the minds of the most relevant consumers segments.
Although we are closer to this mutually beneficial relationship today than yesterday, advertising is not quite there yet. Ad-blocking contributes to this because it incentivizes some advertisers to less than reputable tactics to get in front of consumers. Ad-blocking also contributed significantly to the proliferation of sponsored content, particularly of the shittiest variety. Some sponsored content, is edging closer to the aforementioned symbiotic relationship however.
In stark contrast to this, Ad Blockers are driving more useful ads which users derive more value from. If ads aren’t annoying and are relevant to viewers, then they have much less incentive to use an ad blocker. The research discussed here and the research that will follow it is a lynch pin in edging towards this goal of symbiotic relationships between advertisers and customers.
Asking how viewers feel about ads is much less valuable then measuring how the ad makes them feel about the brand represented. Implicit self identification with brands is huge in establishing brand preference and loyalty. When viewers see an ad for a brand they like, there is significant activation in the medial prefrontal cortex (a brain area responsible for emotional processing).
This same activation is observed when people are shown photos of themselves and from their time in college. Self identity activates the same regions as brands an individual likes. Brands truly are defining of a persons’ individuality. This emotional sentiment can be used to predict if an ad will go viral.
The ad begins very dark, literally and figuratively, and ends in a very positive light. The branding moment occurs at the end. This juxtaposition and creative execution was effective at influencing viewers feelings about the brand. A significant: lift of implicit positive emotional association, increase in pride, gratitude, and a decrease in anxiety were observed in the overall population of the study.
Another interesting case was conducted on ads for Birds Eye. ads for both, peas and frozen fish was used. In the fish ad, the branding moment (key product placement) occurred while the shot was focused on the narrator standing on the beach. The pea ad centered the branding moment on a shot of a field of peas. The ad for peas had significantly more memory recognition than did the fish ad.
This example has some confounding variables, so to adjust for those researchers conducted a second trial. The first condition used the same fish ad as in the first trial, whereas the second utilized a version where the branding moment occurred during a shot of a school of fish. The second condition had a 7% increase in memory retention, which was statistically significant. Long term memory retention is the most effective means of establishing an emotional connection with a brand.
The first most valuable means of triggering long term memory is personal relevance, the second is a tie between emotional intensity and visual interest. TV is passive, whereas mobile is active. Do something the user can interact with. On mobile platforms in particular, viewers wont won’t watch something don’t like.
YouTube and Hulu must engage on preroll skippable ads within 5 seconds. Snapchat and Facebook must engage in 1 second, then more deeply in the next 2-3. Neuroscience and the related research tools discussed here can assist in understanding and fostering this engagement.
Advertising is changing. The analytical side is growing rapidly and disrupting traditional agencies and practices. Despite this research and data driven shift, good creative is essential for effective advertising. Hopefully a symbiotic relationship between ads and viewers is on the horizon. Below is a link to the SXSW schedual listing for the panel.