Neuro-Insight, the world’s largest neuromarketing and neuroanalytics firm, announces two major updates on the exciting future of the company. Industry icon John Zweig has joined Neuro-Insight as global CEO and will work with US CEO Pranav Yadav to transform the state of communications and show the world the unprecedented insights derived from Steady-State Topography. John Zweig brings three decades of experience as WPP group chief executive of specialist communications — a division which at its peak comprised over 50 creative communications and marketing companies.
Neuro-Insight is also proud to announce the launch of a new brand identity, website, and internal client services platform that allows for faster results for valued clients such as Anheuser-Busch, Bose, Condé Nast, Facebook, Forbes, Ford, Google, NBC Universal, Nestle, Pandora, Samsung, T-Mobile, Twitter, Unilever, and Viacom.
Jenny Rooney, editor of the CMO Network at Forbes, covers Neuro-Insight’s contribution to the 2019 Super Bowl. This feature describes Neuro-Insight’s involvement in the optimization of nine of 2019’s Super Bowl spots. Rooney spoke with Pranav Yadav and John Zweig about the connection between advertising and consumer decision-making. The pair offer a few examples of Neuro-Insight’s ability to measure the subconscious data that traditional marketing research has never been able to access before–drawing upon true insight to guide their clients’ marketing strategy and assets.
“The ads will be a clear manifestation of how Neuro-Insight works to help marketers understand to what extent their ads are really getting through to people, registering on a deep, emotional level not otherwise captured in traditional research.”
Audio media is enjoying a renaissance, as mobile audio services (podcasts, audiobooks, music streaming) are integrated into our day to day lives and voice assistants bring a new dimension to audio technology.
Changes like these have the potential to shift the balance between audio and visual media, weakening the dominance of what we see over what we hear; and yet many brands continue to heavily prioritise visual communication and are failing to leverage the world of audio.
In this report, Neuro-Insight draw on decades of neuroscience expertise, combined with brand new research, to demonstrate the power of audio communication. We describe a new approach to planning and creative, which uses neuroscience principles to understand and harness the impact of sound, in order to boost campaign effectiveness in a changing media landscape.
“Clearly we missed the mark, and we apologize…We did not intend to make light of any serious issue.”
Issuing the above statement is any modern marketer’s nightmare. There are few hits that strike harder than having to 1) pull, and 2) apologize for a creative that your team worked long, hard hours refining. Advertisers are more conscious than ever of their very real responsibility to their audiences to message and speak in a way that uses frameworks of equality and empathy. But good intentions can, and often do, miss the mark. Here at Neuro-Insight, more and more clients have been voicing questions around how to be successful with ‘social good’ brand-linked messaging, after seeing so many pieces of creative flop. What happens when they do? And how can we avoid such blunders that turn concepts crafted to inspire and motivate into offensive and damaging content, affecting our audiences and brands?
If you haven’t placed the brand and ad yet, the above statement was issued after ‘that’ Kendall Jenner ad was released by Pepsi in 2017. This April marks the 1-year anniversary of the fiasco, so we wanted to look back on what advertisers can learn going forward in the space of ‘for good’ advertising. Just look at the ads that ran in this year’s Super Bowl—how many of these ads had social good messaging? Now, how many of these ads made you cringe while you watched them? There’s a very real reason for that reaction, and we can measure it with neuroscience.
Shortly after the ad went live, Neuro-Insight analyzed the ad using the company’s proprietary SST (Steady State Topography) technology to unpack the conscious and subconscious effects the ad had on real consumers in New York City. This type of testing is so important for content that speaks to issues in the social justice, humanitarian, and political spaces, because traditional methods that rely on self-reported answers (think surveys, focus groups, and the like) are greatly limited not only by their traditional restraints such as recall and biases, but they are further complicated by the subject matter itself.
For example, let’s say your team is asked to create an ad that empowers and motivates women. You show the ad to a focus group of men and women using a traditional qualitative approach. In just that focus group you have numerous group dynamics (both subconsciously learned and explicitly taught) affecting how each gender responds to your questions. That is, we are in a space where certain discussions in gender equality are becoming more normalized (cat-calling is bad, for example), so both parties may be more likely to self-report that they find messages that speak to this topic empowering. But, it becomes more complicated as we introduce more nuanced issues that women may be less likely to self-report relating to. From qualitative research I’ve worked on, I’ve witnessed rationalizations such as: ‘I shouldn’t be offended by this,’ or ‘at least they are talking about this, so I ought to like it’. Is that the highest bar we’re striving for? Are we (marketers) really empowering women, or are we empowering women how we think we are supposed to?
Now, back to Kendall Jenner. Below, we see the time series data showing second-by-second response to the item across Neuro-Insight’s measurements—Long Term Memory, Engagement (personal relevance), Emotional Intensity (the amount of emotion), and Approach/Withdraw (the feeling of wanting to approach something versus the gut feeling that you want to repel away from something). The measurements map back to the amount of activity in localized parts of the brain responsible for processing these responses.
A few quick takeaways from the analysis:
Intro & Protest
The first strong withdraw (‘dislike‘–specifically, the balance of activity between the left and right hemispheres in the prefrontal cortex; greater left prefrontal activity indicating approach, right indicating withdraw) response comes as the protest element is introduced—showing the marching young group with peace signs. However, we see an Approach response with the female artist (perhaps, she could have been a more successful central character).
Overall, we see the protest peppered with strong dislike peaks, with moderate to high Emotional Intensity (EI)—that is, not only does it elicit a negative response, the response is a strong negative reaction.
Kendall Jenner Introduction
As Jenner is introduced, we see a sustained dislike response coupled with very strong Emotional Intensity.
Pepsi Handoff Sequence
As Jenner hands the police officer the Pepsi, we immediately see a strong dislike reaction, followed by a rapid decline in Memory—as the police officer sips the Pepsi and the crowd breaks out in cheers, viewers disengage, ultimately resulting in a strong sentiment of dislike at end branding.
What Went Wrong?
The Protest We see sentiment of dislike throughout the item during scenes of protestors. What are they protesting? Who is this group? And what role does Pepsi play in the conversation?
Given the strong peak in Emotional Intensity when viewers see Jenner, coupled with the withdraw reaction and Memory Encoding peak, we can say that Jenner is not helping the narrative.
The end sequence was what really put Pepsi in danger—the solution the item offered over-simplified the complex frame the creative used, leading viewers to not only dislike the sequence (the Pepsi hand off to the police officer) but ultimately to carry these negative feelings on towards final Pepsi branding and messaging, as we see strong Long Term Memory Encoding during this moment. We’ve seen this many times over with ads that oversimplify complicated topics in an attempt to tie their brand to current events.
This withdraw response is mirrored by the conversations on social media directly following the release of the item. The next Wednesday, Pepsi drew 1.25 million mentions on social, with 58.6% of them negative, according to social media monitoring company Brandwatch. Pepsi is Pepsi. They can and did survive this. Only a huge, historical brand like Pepsi could walk away from this long-term; a smaller company would likely never be the same.
In sum, we’re in a pivotal moment in the advertising industry. Advertisers are aligned with the desire to create content that accomplishes more than just product sales; we as an industry want to engage our audiences in meaningful—and appropriate—ways. We’ve seen it in our own company with the kinds of questions our clients have been asking around ‘advertising for good,’ and I’m constantly inspired by the brands who diligently research how to generate this content in a responsible and respectful way. These subjects aren’t as simple as “do you like the ad,” or “does this make you want to buy more Pepsi,” but rather touch on layered conscious and subconscious responses. If you’re electing to engage in these conversations, you take on the responsibility to understand the environment, the people, and how your brand does, or does not, fit in the conversation.
Next time, we’ll take a look at how social good advertising, when used in a responsible and genuine way, can help your brand and your consumers.
The latest studies reveal that web users are in a different mindset depending on the site they visit. So, Twitter commissioned neuroscience research to investigate how marketers can optimise their advertising to take advantage Martyn U’ren is head of research in the APAC region for Twitter.
His job is to sift through the endless reams of data generated by the social media giant’s 330 million users worldwide to work out not just the types of people using the platform, but how they interact with it and why. More taxingly, he then has to use that information to deduce how marketers can optimise their ads accordingly. At first, it all seemed so simple: social media users, so common thinking went, are younger and more impatient. They like their content short and surprising. Something to halt a spinning thumb in its tracks. But as Twitter compiled more and more research globally, they realised that theory wasn’t just simplistic, but often wrong.
“Advertising started off as being about presenting the right message,” U’ren says. “Then it evolved into considering running time and place. But now we’ve discovered there’s another dimension – state of mind. Before, we were preoccupied with ad length, but the true benefit is the content meeting the expectations of the consumer at that precise moment.” Unlike other platforms, Twitter wasn’t just about alleviating boredom. Its users were passionate and logged on for a specific need, such as commentating on a sports match or reacting to a TV show or learning about a major news event. When he commissioned neuroscience agency Neuro-Insight to conduct testing, it tallied with the company’s previous research.
“Not all screens are equal,” says Peter Pynta, Neuro-Insight’s director of sales and marketing. “Yes, it’s about TV vs cinema vs tablet vs mobile, but also about the particular website they’re using. These two ideas can have a dramatic influence on how much of an impact the creative has.” Or as U’ren puts it: “On a platform where people are bored, advertisers need to fight harder. It’s the same reason sports sponsorship is still a highly valued piece of property, but late-night TV isn’t.”
And it wasn’t just as simple as analysing words and pictures. Increasingly, advertisers are using the platform as a home for branded videos. So Neuro-Insight tested more than 100 Twitter users in Melbourne, aged between 18-49 and split by gender, to see what kinds of sponsored content touched a neurological nerve.
“The number one rule was that content had to be good,” says U’ren. In fact, so long as the video was relevant and interesting, users weren’t especially bothered if it was paid for by a business or not, though they were more likely to click on a link if it was shared by someone they follow, rather than artificially placed on a newsfeed by the promoter.
The study then took this concept one stage further to investigate how advertisers can optimise their videos to specifically take advantage of Twitter users, as opposed to those on rivals platforms. Neuroscience was the perfect tool for this as it can pinpoint the exact moment in footage that attention is spiked – even if it is a subconscious reaction. The research was, therefore, able to break down ads to show which scenes were working and which should be edited out. “But creatives don’t want a paint-by-numbers toolkit,” insists U’ren. “And they don’t want hard-and-fast rules. We wanted to dig out the top performing ads vs the weaker performing ones to see what the key differences were.”
The first major revelation was the importance of intrigue.
This comes by posing a question or setting out a dilemma or asking the viewer, directly or indirectly, to think, ‘What would you do?’ And because of the rapid nature of browsing on mobiles, that needed to be done in the first three seconds. “It brings in a human element,” adds Pynta. “Twitter is quite an immediate environment. Every moment is precious. When intrigue kicks in, it gives the adverts a holding power over viewers.” Another was colour. Quite a few ads tested tried to depict a sombre mood by using a palette of blues or greys, but this turned people off. However, content with strong contrasts, such as reds or yellows, performed much better, unlike TV ads, where viewers would be more open to growing with a cleverly woven storyline over time. This led to another, similar observation with working towards both the medium of Twitter and the screen size: movement.
“This was more of a surprise,” says Pynta. “Sport is a very good example because it intrinsically has a lot of movement, particularly if it’s packaged as a highlight. Movement wastes no time in getting to a moment. If it’s a celebration or a goal being kicked, for instance, that’s high-impact.”
People that have a specific role in the story is another factor. Just throwing in characters who don’t do anything is a quick way to ensure viewers will lose interest. On the flipside, the holy grail is watching a character evolve through a linear story that has a clear resolution at the end. And the faster that can happen, the better. “Some of the ads we tested didn’t go anywhere, and they didn’t have a conclusion,” says U’ren. “It’s what Neuro-Insight call conceptual closure. But if that apparent ending comes too soon, people consciously or unconsciously move on. We’re not saying that ads need to be lengthy, but those that built a story at pace were effective in being stored in long-term memory.”
Finally, while these were good tips to spark a user’s interest, one of the biggest revelations in ensuring a video was memorable was for the ads to be informative. Interestingly, this doesn’t necessarily seem to be linked to the quality – there were examples of content that few people initially clicked on, but that stuck in the mind of those who did press play. “When people stop, ads that have an informative angle are clear winners,” adds U’ren.
“The role of creativity is huge, but it’s influenced by the environment,”
concludes Pynta, “and Twitter wanted to help advertisers know what is unique about theirs. Creatives need to be aware of these big rules and start their thinking with them to fully leverage the power of the environment.”
Tweeting during a game while watching it at the same time isn’t necessarily going to make you less engaged with the game. In fact, a new study commissioned by the Twitter suggests mid-game tweets may actually improve the experience. A study by Neuro-Insight, shared on January 18, says tweets during a game increases engagement with both tweets and ads on the platform. The study was prompted by data from an analytics firm, ComScore, which showed Twitter’s live user count jumping around 4 percent during a game or other live entertainment. Twitter says the data also shows that other social media platforms didn’t see the same increases. During big games, the number of users online rises even more, with the 2017 Super Bowl bringing a 19 percent jump over the network’s usual Sunday users.
That data had Twitter digging further into tweets during a game, so the company commissioned the Neuro-Insight study. The research was conducted using biometrics; Twitter didn’t go into detail on the exact process for those measurements, but Neuro-Insight used a visor and cap to track eye movement and brain activity. The study found that users tuning into both traditional TV and Twitter simultaneously showed 31 percent more engagement and 35 percent more memorability of the game. That group was compared with users who only relied on Twitter for game data and users who only watched on TV. The Twitter viewers showed 60 percent more engagement and roughly that same percentage in memorability over those tested that only watched the game on TV.
While the first suggests tweeting during a game makes the event more memorable, the study also looked at how ads factor into the equation. Twitter ads that were viewed during the game by users also watching on TV, according to the study, showed 42 percent more engagement than TV ads during the same game. When using both Twitter and TV to follow the game, the Twitter breaks are apparently not just a distraction from the ads — the study says that users tuning in using both methods also showed 18 percent more engagement to the ads on TV than users that didn’t log-in during the game. The study results, Twitter says, suggests tweeting during the game enhances the experience, both for users and advertisers.
How Pranav Yadav Became CEO At 25 - 30 Under 30 | Forbes - YouTube
Pranav Yadav, CEO of Neuro-Insight US Inc, is an international innovation evangelist and thought leader dedicated to changing how brands and customers communicate. By using the passive, granular insights of neuromarketing, Pranav helps advertisers and media companies make the most compelling connections between product, communication, context and consumer. Pranav is an ARF Great Mind Award winner and Forbes recently named Pranav among the Top 30 Under 30 for Marketing.
Neuroscience expert Richard Silberstein explains how advances in understanding long-term memory can optimise adverts displayed on smartphones
Professor Richard Silberstein is one of the world leaders in neuroscience research in advertising. He can’t, he jokes, read your mind. But If you let him hook you up to an SST (Steady State Topography) headset while watching a commercial, you’ll be shocked at quite how much he can deduce.
“We measure the speed of processing in different parts of the brain,” Silberstein explained at Mumbrella’s Finance Marketing Summit. “What that means is that we can record a sense of engagement. How intense an experience it is. Do you like it? Are you paying attention? And we can also tell whether a piece of information will be stored in your long-term memory.”
The 2016 US Presidential nominee race certainly generated a fair amount of debate, much of which can be attributed to the polarising, non-mainstream candidates occupying both Republican and Democrat camps. By using the hype generated by the real Presidential campaign, streaming giant Netflix was able to hijack the media and America’s attention to briefly refocus the spotlight from Donald Trump to the upcoming season of House of Cards and its main attraction, the fictional President of the United States, Frank Underwood. BBH New York’s campaign, which won a Grand Prix in the Integrated Lions category this year, featured a 30 second spot that was placed within highest rated US political debate in American history. The spot was very effective in getting people to talk about Frank, with #FU2016 becoming the top trending topic on both Facebook and Twitter within an hour of launch. While we know that this campaign was highly effective, we used neuroscience to determine just how effective the creative components of the advertisement were
Analysis: How Netflix Hijacked the US Election With Advertising
The brain activity of fifty male and fifty female participants was recorded while participants viewed a 30-minute program with the 30 second Netflix advertisement embedded in one of the ad-breaks. The advertisements were fully rotated within position and within each ad-break across the entire sample. Importantly, each participant only viewed the entire reel once and therefore the experience that is being analysed reflects a true first exposure to the Netflix advertisement.
The report is primarily based on Neuro-insight’s Long-Term Memory Encoding measure which has a strong and highly researched link in influencing consumer behaviour (Silberstein & Nield, 2008). The measure reveals what the brain is encoding into conscious and unconscious long-term memory and the time series graph indicates how elements of the ad are stored in long-term memory – the higher the graph (above 0.7), the more strongly the moment in the ad is stored in memory and the more likely it will influence consumer behaviour. In addition, Neuro-Insight’s Approach (like)/Withdraw (dislike) and Emotional Intensity (the strength of the emotional response) measures are briefly touched upon in this report.
Long term memory encoding for Male Viewers
Netflix Male Viewers MemLR - YouTube
Long term memory encoding for Female Viewers
Netflix Female Viewers MemLR - YouTube
From a cursory glance at the time series it becomes readily evident that both genders respond quite differently to the advertisement. Male viewers processed the advertisement in a more generalised way, taking in more of the visuals than female viewers, who exhibited a more balanced processing state. This processing bias is determined by the dominance of either the Blue (global/general) or Red (Details) memory encoding trace over the other.
“…male viewers processed the advertisement in a more generalised way, taking in more of the visuals than female viewers, who exhibited a more balanced processing state.”
A more detailed looked at the time series shows that male viewers exhibited a more dynamic response that consisted of many peaks and troughs. In contrast, in female viewers we see a much more sustained memory encoding response with only a few peaks. The most strongly encoded moment in male viewers was centred on the visuals and voiceover statement of “….today, more people will go to work” . The combination of this statement plus the visuals of manual labour resonated very strongly with male viewers, which is unsurprising, given that the building and manufacturing industries are traditionally male dominated fields. Although, we also see a peak in the response of female viewers, it is considerably smaller than the male response. Furthermore, the subsequent military themed scenes also resonate more strongly with male viewers – again, not surprising for the very same reason above.
One of the most prominent differences between the genders occurred during the visuals of the children running towards the camera. While female viewers exhibited a sustained response during this scene, we see a strong reduction in memory encoding in male viewers. Looking at the emotional dimensions further reveals that this scene is also associated with a slightly negative emotional response. While the data would appear to suggest that male viewers are ‘put off’ by this scene, we would argue that this reduction in memory encoding is being driven by a memory consolidation process that we have termed Conceptual Closure. Briefly, Conceptual Closure occurs when the brain perceives an event boundary, such as a narrative sequence coming to an end and takes a brief period to process and store the previous experience. In this case the switch from the employment related scenes of building, manufacturing and armed forces to a more abstract, emotive scene of children running in a field, was perceived as the beginning of a new narrative sequence by male viewers. In contrast, female viewers perceived this entire sequence as one narrative block, hence we did not see Conceptual Closure occur during the same period.
“While the data would appear to suggest that male viewers are ‘put off’ by this scene, we would argue that this reduction in memory encoding is being driven by a memory consolidation process that we have termed Conceptual Closure.”
Emotional response of Male and Female Viewers
While this advertisement did manage to cause a stir on Twitter and other social media platforms during the real-life GOP was the campaign effective? In order for an advertisement to be considered effective, it must have not only have sufficiently high levels of memory encoding during any key message, but most importantly at final branding. In this advertisement, we see the fictional Underwood campaign slogan of ‘FU2016’ was very strongly encoded in male viewers. In contrast, this very same scene was only moderately effective in female viewers. During the Netflix branding, we see a flip in memory encoding, with a much higher level of memory encoding in female viewers compared to male viewers. So, while we see differences in final branding across the genders, in a sense, we would still consider this advertisement to be effective. While the Netflix brand is only strongly encoded in females, we cannot discount the strong brand equity of the Frank Underwood character and the strong linkage that the character has to Netflix. In this regard, any prominent branding of Frank Underwood would also benefit and reinforce brand associations with Netflix.
In summary, BBH New York’s campaign was not only an exceptional piece of viral communication, it was also a highly effective piece of advertising. Interestingly and perhaps surprisingly, this campaign also elicited different responses in male and female viewers and these nuances were able to be detected using neuroimaging. This opens up a number of possibilities for advertisers who now can use these tools to fully understand the different segments that comprise their customer/user base.
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Silberstein, R. B., & Nield, G. (2008). Brain activity correlates of consumer brand choice shift associated with television advertising. International Journal of Advertising, 27(3), 359-380.