SYDNEY: It's time for brands to think beyond art and embrace science, as neuroscientific research can now show how creative choice in ads can actually drive away potential customers, an academic has said.

According to Emeritus Professor Richard Silberstein, who is the founder of consultancy Neuro-Insight, long-term memory encoding in a consumer at the time of branding or a key message in an ad is one of the most powerful indicators of future commercial actions, such as a purchase – but advertisers are often driving away consumers without knowing it.

"What we think is the purpose of long-term memory is not so much to be a store of things that happened, but to be a guide to future behaviour," he told the recent Mumbrella360 conference. (For more details, read WARC's exclusive report: How long-term memory drives advertising effectiveness.)

But marketers and advertising creatives must be aware of how neuroscience impacts the effectiveness of their work.

In particular, Silberstein warned marketers to be aware of 'conceptual closure' – where long-term memory encoding drops off and thus information retention drops.

Conceptual closure can be triggered by creative decisions in the ad, such as imagery or soundtrack, without a consumer – or the marketer who has put a lot of money behind a TV campaign - even realising the negative effect.

"The sort of thing that can trigger conceptual closure is anything which tells the brain 'This is the end of the story. This is an end of the narrative'," Silberstein explained.

"When you are experiencing anything, for example, the brain will break up that experience into little lumps and store it. What the brain is looking for is what's called an 'event boundary', (like) the difference at the end of one (lump), the punchline of a joke, for example," he said.

Silberstein advised that creatives pay attention to detail, as subtle things can have a huge effect on consumer motivation. "Short strategies have to be right, but in execution, little things can have a huge impact," he said.

Data sourced from WARC