NEW YORK: In the ultimate contest between the old and new, five authors from the University of Memphis have found a new research platform for the ultimate sporting event.

For decades, USA Today has enjoyed day-after dominance in the community of marketers with its Ad Meter Super Bowl ratings. Using panel-based methodology, Gannett's national daily newspaper has enjoyed the reputation of being the go-to source regarding which advertisers made the strongest connection with viewers of America's most-watched television event.

Published in the Journal of Advertising Research (JAR), EEG-Based Measures versus Panel Ratings: Predicting Social-Media Based Behavioral Responses to Super Bowl Ads sets out to explore the reliability of that stand-by metric for a very deliberate, practitioner-based reason

"Given its tremendous price tag, maximizing the impact of advertising aired during major media events, like the Super Bowl, interests researchers a great deal," the authors wrote.

George D. Deitz, Marla B. Royne, Michael C. Peasley, Jianping "Coco" Huang and Joshua T. Coleman look beyond the Ad Meter to analyse differences in online ad views; social engagement as measured by the number of "likes" and "dislikes"; the number of viewer comments; and overall sentiment, as measured by the ratio of "likes"-to-"dislikes". And they proceed from a general position that implicit and explicit measurement approaches are complementary.

Beyond those quantitative metrics, however, the authors indicate that electroencephalogram (EEG) analysis demonstrated that people's brains seem to respond more to Super Bowl ads because "they are aroused by the emotional power of the ads … suggesting this brain activity is a significant predictor" of the success of Super Bowl ads.

While it may seem like heresy to generations of Super Bowl advertising enthusiasts, the research demonstrates that a positive USA Today score may not necessarily indicate emotional engagement.

More specifically, "If individuals like an ad enough to vote for it in the Ad Meter rating, that ad may not have the emotional power to inspire them to view that spot again let alone publicly demonstrate their 'likes' or 'dislikes' through the 'push' of a button.

"The immediate cognitive nature of Ad Meter – which may represent the first stage in the hierarchy of effects, in contrast to the later EEG measure and its ability to detect emotional stimulation – may also explain the reported results."

"EEG-Based Measures versus Panel Ratings: Predicting Social-Media Based Behavioral Responses to Super Bowl Ads" appears as part of a special "How Neurological Measures Work in Advertising" section in the Journal of Advertising Research.

Data sourced from Journal of Advertising Research; additional content by Warc staff