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Your brain on superbowl ads

February 7, 2006

Influx searched online for opinions of Sunday’s Superbowl advertising, but first we got distracted by all the paid search ads for advertisers desperate to stretch their investments

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When we finally found opinions, we found dozens of bloggers weighing in, but what provoked our interest, more than the words of the bloggers, were the efforts of the scientists at UCLA. Scientists who aren’t a bit interested in what people had to say, but instead, wanted to know how the human brain was responding to the ads.

To do this they used FMRI, which works as follows-

Different levels of cerebral blood oxygenation have different magnetic properties. Moreover, changes in blood oxygenation correlate with changes in neural activity. Thus, without using any contrast agent, fMRI can measure how much brain areas are activated during sensory, cognitive and motor experiences.

So they picked five subjects and went to work. The researchers believe that lots of activity in the areas of the brain that deal with reward and empathy are signs of a good ad and picked Bud “Office” and “I am going to Disney” as winners here.

Of some concern, was the response to the Michelob Light Ad, which they thought could be working, but weren’t really sure why.

” because he activity in these areas may represent some form of empathic response. Or, given that these areas are also pre-motor areas for mouth movements, it may represent the simulated action of drinking a beer elicited in viewers by the ad. Whatever it is, it seems a good brain response to the ad.”

Of greater concern, were the findings for the seemingly soft and harmless Budweiser “Foal” ad, which according to the research, induced feelings of conflict and fear.

Like plenty of advertisers searching for the “magic bullet”, Influx was intrigued and initially seduced into discovering more about the brain on ads. However, we now have more doubts than ever before, because if, as this research shows and science keeps telling us, we don’t yet even fully understand how the brain works, how can this process offer any constructive insight into advertising effectiveness?

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