There exists an ad for Sony Bravia LCD TVs from 2006. Surely you will know it. Over the empty streets of San Francisco, hundreds of thousands of rubber balls cascade down the hilly streets to the tune of the guitarist and singer Jose Gonzalez’s cover of Heartbeats. There are few humans on these streets but there are animals. In particular, a frog that leaps from the lip of a pipe amid the hail of balls. People remember that frog.
Thirteen years later, at an event in London, neuroscience threatens to undo some of that creative magic. At Brainy Bar 8 (London, April 2018), the ad plays alongside a real-time measurement of an audience’s levels of engagement in the ad. They are relatively high all of the way through, but they are particularly high when they see the frog. “It’s quite irrational that this frog was able to deliver great engagement,” says Cristina de Balanzo, Consultancy Director at Walnut Unlimited, the agency responsible for hosting and organising the event (in partnership with WARC). Fortunately, the frog featured in the ad, but with no rationale for it being there, it could easily have ended up on the cutting room floor. Instinctual decisions can now be backed by neuroscience. After all, neuroscience seeks to understand what is happening when we make decisions. Communications seek to influence those decisions.