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This Is Your Brain on Advertising
10-16-2007, 02:08 AM,
This Is Your Brain on Advertising
Amber Haq
Business Week
Mon, 15 Oct 2007 16:12 EDT

"Neuromarketers use sophisticated brain-imaging technology to test consumer response and help clients fine-tune their strategies

Do you ever get the creepy feeling that advertisers know how to put a lump in your throat, inspire subconscious brand loyalty, or make your mouth water? Just wait: It could get worse. An emerging technique called neuromarketing that uses brain scans to measure human response to promotional messages is starting to catch on in Europe - and soon ads may become even more effective at prompting you to pull out your wallet.

Orwellian, perhaps. But for companies looking to fine-tune their promotions and boost sales, neuromarketing offers the enticing prospect of a quantitative way to test the subconscious effectiveness of ads, jingles, and logos before spending big bucks on media placements. That's a godsend for marketers wary of the sometimes unreliable results of focus groups and other field testing.
What Lights You Up?

Neuromarketing uses state-of-the-art technologies such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), magneto-encephalography, and more conventional electroencephalograms (EEGs) to observe which areas of the brain "light up" when test subjects view, hear, or even smell products or promos. The activity of regions such as the nucleus accumbens, insula, and mesial prefrontal cortex give researchers insight into how consumers respond to specific stimuli.

"Emotions cannot necessarily be accurately described," says Gemma Calvert, head of the Multisensory Research Group at Britain's University of Bath and director of neuromarketing consultancy Neurosense in Oxford, England. Using brain scans, she says, "We can see the discrepancy between what you say and what your brain says, and reduce the margin of error."

That's what attracted Viacom Brand Solutions to experiment with neuromarketing. The London-based Viacom subsidiary, which sells ads on the entertainment giant's channels including MTV, VH1, Nickelodeon, Paramount Comedy, and E! Channel in Great Britain and Ireland, engaged Neurosense to measure the response of 18- to 30-year-old viewers to ads interspersed into episodes of cartoon comedy South Park. The two dozen subjects each spent an hour inside an fMRI scanner watching four programs while their brain activity was measured.
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