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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Marketing: Neuroscience (Reprise)

Updates on the Superbowl Brainscan nonsense... Here's a graph for that overblown Fedex commercial showing activity in the Amygdala region of the brain. It's pretty much the most primitive part of the brain, dealing mainly with 'Oh shit, a snake! Run!!!!' kind of activity...

The huge spike? Why, when the dinosaur's feet crushes the caveman.

Now I, for one, would love to know whether that spike is just because it's a surprise... Or whether at some very deep residual evolutionary level, we're preconditioned to avoid being crushed by brontosaurus feet.


Have just been reading a bit more from the 'marketing' company behind all of this... Scary stuff:

Tom Freedman, a partner at FKF Applied Research added: “If you are not connecting emotionally to people all the hype and all the buzz is meaningless. It is surprising how many times ads do not really connect. Lots of ads are like cotton candy, they look good but turn out to be a lot of fluff and not much impact. If you spent millions of dollars for thirty seconds of message, that’s an expensive emotional miss. In football terms most ads got stopped at the line of scrimmage. The scans show only a few spots went for big gains and touchdowns.”

The spots they deem were the best were the execrable Disney & Sierra Mist Airport ones. While I admire their bold-faced scientific confidence, I'm not sure I trust their conclusions. For a start, by focussing only on initial exposure, they completely miss the post-Superbowl discussions of ads, which definitely make up part of the real world effect...

By completely disregarding what consumers said about the ads (e.g. 'Dove appears to appeal to idealism without much energy behind it: emotional centers remained quiet for their “Real Beauty” ad. Many respondents said they liked the ad and were enthusiastic about the message, but their emotional centers did not show engagement') they're surely overstating the limits of their understanding. Maybe the mind is deterministic and probabilistic, but surely you need to understand how the brain works as a system before you can conclude that, rather than just - as they are here - measuring which bits of the brain are more active than others. Big conclusions boys, little proof so far.

And they posit any ad that activates the amygdala (see above) as bad:

"Advertisers appear to have caused some collateral damage in their battle to stand out from the crowd. “Almost all the ads induced their greatest activity in the amygdala, a center of the brain most associated with detecting threats or danger.” said Dr. Joshua Freedman UCLA clinical assistant professor of Psychiatry and co-founder of FKF Applied Research. “Even if viewer’s partially suppressed them, they had associations of fear and insecurity. Not something you want in an ad- people generally stay away from things that activate their amygdalas.”

I would love to see them getting people to watch movies in their FMRI machine and then trying to explain to me why Psycho remains such an enduring classic.

A world where all ads are copytested in FMRI machines would be a world with very shit ads indeed... Reminds me of a great advertising quotation:

‘Advertising is a craft executed by people who aspire to be artists, but is assessed by those who aspire to be scientists. I cannot imagine any human relationship more perfectly designed to produce total mayhem’ (John Ward)


AKI SYSTEMS 2600 said...

this still only proves one thing...THAT ANIMALS REGISTER in the advertised mind. the spike occurs when the viewer sees a cute brontosuarus. animals - works everytime! now just imagine if they had put a monkey in the spot?

Adrian said...

No Brontosauri around when we were developing, maybe the respondent they measured was descended from a cockroach?

Lachlan said...

There are plenty of ads out there that would register high emotional activity in my brain... because I'm ranting at the screen about what excrement they are... I'm sure these guys conclusion would be that I loved them!

Gotta love their over confident conclusions from the data though... Step aside traditional pre-testers! A new snake-oil salesman is in town! :o)

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