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The recent ARF Audience Measurement 5.0 plenary panel on neuromarketing, or brain measurements in advertising and media research, reflects the dramatic growth of interest in this area. Not only is the number of neuromarketing suppliers increasing but the technologies on offer cover a wide range from heart rate and skin resistance, fMRI and brain waves or EEG.
At Neuro-Insight, we have been offering advertising and media neuromarketing services based on exclusive access to Steady State Topography (SST), a new brain measurement technology invented in my university research lab originally for basic science and clinical research.
One of the exciting developments has been our discovery of a strong relationship between SST measures of brain activity during advertising and consumer behaviour. In the only peer reviewed study* examining the relationship of brain activity and change in consumer brand preference, we showed that the storage (or encoding) of brand information into long-term memory was a powerful indicator of advertising effectiveness.
The Big Break-Throughs
Throughout our advertising & media work, we have been struck by some extremely interesting findings that our clients have been able to put into action:
- How small, and apparently minor, changes in the execution of an advertisement can powerfully optimize its effectiveness.
- By identifying the ‘match’ between message and media, marketers can routinely optimize advertising effectiveness through their media buy.
1. Minor Changes – Major Improvements:
Two brief examples illustrate how small effects yielded a dramatic improvement in advertising effectiveness. The first concerns a television advertisement for frozen fish. From our assessment of the advertisement, it was clear that long-term memory encoding for facts was low during delivery of the key message and product benefits. Based on our findings, the advertisement was re-edited slightly and the modified version flighted the subsequent year. Not only did brand linkage (independently assessed) rise from 8% to 44% but market share increased by 14%. Interestingly, the improved advertisement performance occurred even though the media spend in year 2 decreased by 50% on year 1.
The second concerns a pharmaceutical advertiser that was unsure which of two slightly different soundtracks should be used in a television advertisement advising individuals to visit a corporate web site for further information. Previous research conducted by the client and advertising agency was unable to differentiate between the rhythms in terms of their possible impact on advertising effectiveness. The ad was a successor to a similarly styled ad that had run in the previous two year period. We found that there was a dramatic difference in our SST measure of effectiveness with one background soundtrack being twice as effective as the other. Interestingly, our data also indicated that the more effective soundtrack was also twice as effective as the previous year’s campaign and we advised that the recommended advertisement rhythm combination would be more than 50% more effective than the previous years’ campaign. The campaigns’ sole objective was to drive web traffic. The advertiser accepted our recommendation and in the following year, average web traffic increased by over 100%, an amount consistent with our findings.
2. The Media / Message Ecosystem:
The ‘Neuro signature’ of the media environment can have a significant influence over the advertising within it…the message and medium interact much like an ecosystem. This point has been intuitively obvious to most media and marketing experts for some time, however, it has been a highly subjective decision to invest marketing funds against. By matching the signature between message & media, we can advise on how to optimize the effect that the media environment can bring to the impact of the advertisement. Marketers can routinely identify a repertoire of TV programs that fit their TV advertisement and enhance its effectiveness.
Finally, while I believe that valid neuromarketing methodologies will make valuable contributions to advertising and media research, I do not believe that such neuromarketing methodologies will render established techniques obsolete. Rather, neuromarketing and established market research methodologies are complementary. It has been our experience that SST based neuromarketing services have enhanced the effectiveness of qualitative techniques and provided incremental insights that clients have found highly actionable.
* Silberstein, R.B. Nield, G.E. (2008) Brain activity correlates of consumer brand choice shift associated with television advertising. Int. J. Advertising. 2008; 27: 359 – 380