Television spots can leverage similar creative techniques to maximise attention and emotional responses from viewers, but many ads ignore these best practices altogether.

Such insights emerged from a study presented by Orlando Wood, chief innovation officer at research firm System1, at EffWorks Global, an online event held by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA), the trade body.

And he reported that “right-brain” ads – typically displaying qualities like a focus on well-defined characters, a clear sense of time and place, and meaningful relationships – outperform on both of these indicators.

“The same features that are associated with greater emotional response are also associated with stronger attention,” Wood told the IPA’s online conference.

“To attract and sustain attention in advertising, it's the right brain we need to be appealing to.” (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: How “right-brained” TV ads attract and hold consumer attention – as well as drive emotion.)

But Wood also issued a warning: Advertisers, he noted, have moved away from “right-brain” strategies in the last few years.

Instead, they have focused on “left-brain” ads which favour abstract product features, close-ups, words overlaid on the screen, voiceovers, instructions, and repetitive music.

While these executions may feel conceptually bold, the evidence shows that they fall short when it comes to building brands for the long term.

In Wood’s latest research, a total of 195 TV commercials were tested using the ad-ratings service developed by System1, which hands each ad a score of between one and five stars depending on its emotional impact.

TVision, a measurement company that tracks attention, assessed the same group of commercials to help determine if the ads skewed more towards the “right brain” than “left brain” were most impactful.

And both rounds of analysis, Wood noted, found that it “is character, incident and place that attract and hold attention. And it is frontality, instruction and product-centricity that causes us to disengage.”

Sourced from WARC