Neuroscience and advertising: The essence of an ad

Charles Young

Careful analysis of how viewers interpret and respond to ads shows us that their search for meaning is not always a linear process.

The continued use of neuroscience in advertising research is likely to exacerbate the current schism between advertising creatives and advertising researchers by highlighting the differences between two opposing views of human perception. The Gestalt viewpoint, held by most creatives, is that an ad must be understood as a unified whole that is more than the sum of its parts. The other, analytic viewpoint, is implicit in the moment-by-moment approaches used by researchers to look inside an ad for insights that might pay out for advertisers with more highly optimised advertising.

According to the Gestalt viewpoint, it is the relationships between the elements of an ad that matter most, not the strength or weakness of individual elements. An ad must be thought of as an interconnected system of images and words that interact with human perception to evoke a specific, unique emotional response.