NEW YORK: Neuroscience can offer a range of powerful insights into creative effectiveness, as shown by an analysis of popular Super Bowl spots conducted by Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience.

Dr Carl Marci, M.D., Chief Neuroscientist at Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience, discussed this subject at the Advertising Research Foundation's (ARF) 2017 Audience Measurement Conference.

Based on a study of the TV ads which generated the greatest Twitter buzz during the 2016 NFL season closer, Marci suggested there was no clear category bias, but superlative creative was a common trend.

And "neuroscience measures are particularly good at measuring creative," he added. (For more details, read WARC's exclusive report: The neuroscience winner in advertising: creativity.)

Facial coding is one example of turning this theory into practice, as it uses lab cameras to capture people's expressions, then groups them as "positive", "surprise", "negative" and "neutral".

Looking at the top-performing Super Bowl commercials in its study, Marci reported that "18% of the time we saw positive expressions for the top ads, versus 6% of the time for bottom ads.

"In contrast, when we looked at 'negative' and 'surprise', there was a small, non-significant trend in the opposite direction."

Positive expressions, Marci continued, represent "social signals" most commonly seen during social interactions between people – and are comparatively rare in the context of advertising responses.

"The most common facial-expression [response] to an ad is neutral – about 80% of the time," he said. "So [the 18% response] tells us that there's really something about these highly-tweeted ads that are generating strong emotion."

Using medical-grade EEG sensors that measure direct brain activity as participants viewed ads, Marci's team also uncovered a range of further insights.

These included the fact that successful spots began in more emotionally-motivating ways, while the bottom-ranked ads were seen as confusing, as determined using attention, emotion and memory metrics.

"When we see a pattern of high attention and lower emotion, that tells us that the brain is working [and] they're paying attention, but it's not connecting with them on an emotional level," said Marci.

Data sourced from WARC