On The Warc Blog: pre-testing and neuroscience

22 March 2010

LONDON/WASHINGTON: Neuroscience and pre-testing viral ads were among the subjects that attracted attention on The Warc Blog this week.

Eugene Yiga, knowledge manager of Synovate Laboratories, said the recession, fragmenting media habits and increasingly competitive markets are all encouraging a focus on branding and innovation.

However, while products like the iPhone have shown how successful such a process can be, the examples of Segway and New Coke both demonstrated that nothing is a given in this area.

Part of the problem lies in research methods, as while consumers are able to state their preferences in the abstract, their actual behaviour often does not match up to these principles.

"The connections we make are messy and the decisions we make cannot always be explained in concrete terms," said Yiga.

"Most of our decisions are made using shortcuts simply because trying to pay attention to absolutely everything that happens to us all the time would be too much."

In evidence of this, many shoppers automatically attribute certain characteristics to specific products, like assuming cars made in Germany are typically the most reliable.

As such, neuroscience may offer a tool with which to understand what consumers really want, rather than what they say they want, thus leading to better products, and more interesting advertising.

"Neuroscience isn't about making us do what we don't want to ... It's about new levels of creativity, products we want, and happier lives for all," Yiga argued.

In a separate post, Peter Field, a marketing consultant, responded to recent research conducted into pre-testing viral ads by Millward Brown.

This approach suggested that spots which gain traction on the web must have LEGS: that is, be Laugh-out-loud funny, Edgy, Gripping or Sexy.

Building further on this framework, the company outlined four criteria to use when assessing new executions, in the form of ABCD – Awareness Index, Buzz, Celebrity and Distinctiveness.

However, while Field agreed that the LEGS formulation could provide a useful model, he posited that the Awareness Index may not be a sufficient metric.

Citing papers by Conquest, TNS and BrainJuicer, he wrote that pre-testing may have a limited role in predicting viral success, for one clear reason.

"There seems to be an inescapable conclusion … that traditional pre-testing techniques are simply not up to the demands of the modern highly emotionally charged world of successful communications," he said.

"It seems to me that nowhere is emotional engagement more important than for campaigns hoping to enjoy viral success and word-of-mouth in general. How many successful virals do you know that are simply informative?"

Data sourced from Warc