TV advertising: TV on the mind

David Brennan

A new study that measured TV viewing's stimuli on the brain shows that creative TV advertising that tells a story triggers deep emotional associations with brands

The application of neuroscience to market research means we don't have to ask people to tell us what is going on in their heads – a research approach that is often inaccurate and subject to misrepresentation. This is especially important when we want to conduct research on the effects of television, which often affects us on an emotional, implicit and subconscious level. So, rather than asking people about these effects after the event, we can understand much more about them by looking at which specific parts of the brain are most active when they are watching TV and what experiences are associated with that activity.

We decided we needed to use two brain measurement techniques: functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI);and steady state topography (SST) – a form of electroencephalography. This was so we could understand how the brain was processing TV commercials on a second-by-second basis, in a natural setting, while also understanding which specific parts of the brain were active across the whole commercial. This would provide us with both the depth and breadth of the viewers’ experience when they were watching TV.