GLOBAL: The use of neuroscience techniques alongside a traditional qualitative approach to ad testing has helped Heineken, the brewing giant, develop a new understanding of how consumers respond to its advertising.

Writing exclusively for Warc, Sjoerd Koornstra, Global CMI Manager at Heineken International, outlined how the company had pre-tested a TV commercial for one of its international beer brands with three different methods; a traditional quantitative pre-test and two different neuroscience-led approaches.

The traditional qual research found that while the ad had a strong potential to cut through the clutter and generate branded impact for the brand, it did not succeed in bringing across the intended main messages.

A simple neuroscience study in a lab setting, in which participants were fitted with an EEG-cap and asked to perform word and logo tasks before and after watching a series of ads, confirmed the ad was highly engaging and involving and was well understood by the consumers.

But, said Koornstra, "this level of analysis uncovered the fact that the ad was not activating the memory and building on past associations, nor was it generating a change in behaviour".

A third methodology involved conducting the EEG experiment in a silent room, replicating a standard living room, with pairs of respondents (each composed of two friends) and their spontaneous conversation recorded in addition to the neural recordings.

This indicated, again, that the ad was emotionally engaging and was most talked about, but concluded that the storyline and the communication message of the commercial were not clear enough.

"Neuroscience alone is not the silver bullet to better understand and interpret consumers' emotional response to advertising," stated Koornstra. In fact, he added, the traditional, qualitative way of pre-testing television ads measured the key metric better than the neuro approach.

But both neuro approaches were more beneficial when it came to understanding, "not just consumers' innate and emotional response to our commercial messages but the insights necessary to optimise compressed ads".

This study has confirmed to Heineken the need for a combination of tools that allow it to adapt its testing approach depending on the business issue it faces.

Koornstra will be speaking at the Neuromarketing World Forum which takes place in London on Thursday and Friday of this week.

Data sourced from Heineken; additional content by Warc staff