Marketing stimuli effectiveness predicted by functional MRI

Prof Victor AF Lamme and Dr H Steven Scholte

What makes for a good TV commercial? The question itself can already be understood in very different ways. What is 'good'? A commercial that wins prizes for creativity or originality? Or does a good commercial simply increase sales or brand value? Obviously it is best when the two go hand in hand. However, while advertising agencies often know very well what makes for an original or creative design, there is less agreement on what the ingredients are of a TV commercial that pays off in the more literal sense.

Here, we use brain scanning techniques to get a grip on that more elusive feature of TV commercial making: how to get consumers off their couches and run towards shops. We have looked at the 'neural signature' of effective ads, using functional MRI, a technique that allows for the recording of deep brain structures involved in (partly unconscious) emotional valuation and decision making. We find a distinctive pattern of neural activity that is exclusive for effective TV commercials. Moreover, using this pattern as a template, we are able to predict whether a TV commercial will be effective or not. Using this technique, we even predicted one of this year's Effie awards.

The elusive ingredient of effectiveness