Trend: Emotional responses can be measured directly and used for better marketing.
Edge.org reports the results of Marco Iacoboni and his group, who used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure brain responses in a group of subjects while they watched the Super Bowl ads.
Commercials are a part of our lives. We watch them, enjoy them, and discuss them with our friends. Do commercials make us buy the product they advertise? Nobody really knows. The most anticipated 'ad experience' is watching the Super Bowl ads. After the game, there is a flurry of opinions from marketing experts and focus groups of what was the most effective Super Bowl ad. This year, at the UCLA Ahmanson-Lovelace Brain Mapping Center, Marco Iacoboni and his group used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to measure brain responses in a group of subjects while they watched the Super Bowl ads. The way fMRI works is relatively simple: different levels of cerebral blood oxygenation have different magnetic properties. Moreover, changes in blood oxygenation correlate with changes in neural activity. Thus, without using any contrast agent, fMRI can measure how much brain areas are activated during sensory, cognitive and motor experiences.
This very first attempt at doing 'instant-science' is a collaborative effort between Marco Iacoboni's group — a leading group in functional neuroimaging — and FKF Applied Research, a marketing firm. The main idea behind this project is that there is often a disconnect between what people say about what they like — and the real, underlying deeper motives that make us want and like some things and some people, but not others. With fMRI, it is possible to look at unfiltered brain responses, to measure how the ads shown today elicit emotions, induce empathy, and inspire liking and wanting.
Who won the Super Bowl ads competition? If a good indicator of a successful ad is activity in brain areas concerned with reward and empathy, two winners seem to be the 'I am going to Disney' ad and the Bud 'office' ad. In contrast, two big floppers seem to be the Bud 'secret fridge' ad and the Aleve ad. What is quite surprising, is the strong disconnect that can be seen between what people say and what their brain activity seem to suggest. In some cases, people singled out ads that elicited very little brain responses in emotional, reward-related, and empathy-related areas.