How Emotions Influences Advertising

07 Mar,2017


Using Consumer Neuroscience To Create Winning Campaigns

By Dolly Jha and Moumita Ghoshal

Numbers have long been known to be coldly accurate but thoroughly incapable of assessing softer aspects like emotions and feeling. However, ensuring that audiences connect with brand messaging is the next frontier of effective measurement.

Today’s consumers access content across myriad media, but consumers in India continue to view television commercials to be among the most trustworthy sources of advertising. Given the prevalence of TV in consumers’ lives, however, viewers are bombarded with more ads than ever, making it that much more difficult for brands and agencies to create commercials that truly connect with their audiences. So what’s involved in building that connection?


The media industry has a long history of measurement solutions that assess an ad’s impact on its intended audience—understanding what works and what doesn’t. But they don’t determine whether an ad creates an emotional connection with the viewer. This represents a significant opportunity for marketers because studies show that purchase decisions are driven by emotions.


Measuring Emotions

Emotions are intangible, and measuring them is no small task. Direct response surveys can be misleading because they presume that respondents can accurately verbalise their emotions. Verbal responses require respondents to express, and therefore rationalise, their emotions as feelings. Emotions are instinctive reactions to external stimuli, whereas feelings are the mind’s interpretation of those emotions; and are therefore, subject to personal bias, culture, setting, past experiences and ingrained beliefs. Moreover, many emotions don’t break the surface of conscious awareness, making it impossible to be interpreted as feelings.


For many modern researchers, using techniques that can directly measure neurological and biological reactions are the best way to evaluate emotions. These reactions can include heart rate, sweat, posture, facial reactions, electrical impulses in specific regions of the brain, etc. Those techniques are collectively referred to as neuroscience, and recent technical innovations in this field are helping break new ground in our understanding of consumer behaviour. They’re also setting a new standard for ad testing.


Using Neuroscience For Ad Testing

Neuroscience provides a deep, clear view into the real world—the real-time reactions of consumers at the most elemental level: their brainwaves. The human brain reacts to stimuli in milliseconds, and by capturing these reactions deep within the subconscious, consumer neuroscience can reveal exactly how consumers perceive brands, marketing and the message—at the most granular level. Pure, instantaneous, unfiltered responses measured at the subconscious level of the mind offer far more accurate and reliable insights than other consumer research methodologies.


As of today, the complete neuroscience toolkit includes EEG, core biometrics such as heart rate and skin response, facial coding and eye tracking. While EEG provides detailed second-by-second diagnostics on the effectiveness of the stimulus, biometrics provides the depth of engagement and facial coding reveals the depth of expressed emotion.


While all of these predict sales to some degree (EEG being the most predictive of them all), a combination of all these neuroscientific measures provides the highest level of prediction – almost 77%. While articulation in itself is much weaker in terms of predictability, when integrated with the combination of neuroscience tools enhances the predictability to almost 84%!



This clearly establishes how consumer neuroscience scores over articulated research responses, which fail to indicate with sufficient level of precision, which of the aspects of a brand and marketing are going to work, and which ones aren’t.


Consumer neuroscience measures two sets of neurometrics.


Primary metrics result from real-time activity in the brain.

:: Attention: It is a measure of how much brain energy one has to devote to decipher what is being shown to them.

:: Emotional Engagement: This indicates the extent to which the respondent is ‘drawn’ to the stimulus. It is the assessment of whether one is approaching or avoiding what they are seeing, and is by far the purest form of measuring how connected they feel with the stimulus.

:: Memory Activation: This metric indicates the extent to which new memory connections get formed (encoding) or past memories are aroused (retrieval).


Secondary metrics result from the interplay between two or more primary metrics.

:: Overall Effectiveness: It indicates the holistic appeal that the stimulus is able to generate

:: Action Intent: This is the likelihood of a change in behaviour or intent to act on a message.

:: Comprehension: This indicates the extent to which the experience is understood or the extent to which it makes sense.

:: Novelty: It is the likelihood of the ad standing out and being embedded into memory.


A growing number of researches validate the fact that neuroscience based measures are predictive of sales. Findings from a study of 100 recent ads across 25 brands in the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) industry demonstrate how ads affect sales. The ads in the study were grouped into three buckets according to how they scored on a metric based on people’s electroencephalogram activity (EEG) while viewing the ad (‘Below Average, ‘Average’ and ‘Above Average’). Using robust marketing mix modelling, each ad’s contribution to sales volume was computed against the average ad for that brand. Overall, it was found that ads which generated above-average EEG scores were associated with a 23% increment in sales volume over what an average ad would generate. Similarly, below-average ads were associated with a 16% decline in sales volume.



Case Study: Vodafone

The predictive ability of neuroscience measures isn’t restricted to the FMCG category alone. Savvy marketers with brands like Vodafone in the telecom category also use the principles of neuroscience to engage with consumers powerfully. A recent ad under the Vodafone SuperNet™ campaign, Vodafone Super Dad, delivered a healthy performance on all the critical neurometrics including overall effectiveness, action intent, and emotional engagement. The brand uses various technologies to assess and deliver a superior experience to its vast spread of customers across the country.



The brand received positive audience feedback beyond internal expectations. Neuroscience-based research also showed that the appeal and engagement levels were heightened further whenever the brand was referenced in the ad; indicating a positive association with the brand.



The study demonstrated that it wasn’t just one segment of Vodafone’s ad, but a positive contribution of most segments that led to its good performance. The ad not only benefited from a really strong start, priming the audience positively to the rest of their viewing experience, but it was able to keep the audience engaged through most of its critical segments. That enabled effective registration of the message.


Emotional Engagement Scores

Research algorithms are able to automatically extract compressed versions of the ad based on neurological optimality to achieve the desired output to create the same bang but at a lesser cost. Validations have shown that 95% of scientifically-compressed ads perform as well, or even better than the originals.



This granular second-by-second deep-dive into the ad equips advertisers with specific, immensely actionable insights. Consequently, understanding which portions to remove and what to retain for effective shorter edits could become much more profitable.


With such strong and predictive analysis, neuroscience measures are clearly the way forward today for copy-testing applications across categories.

 Dolly Jha is Executive Director, Nielsen India and Moumita Ghoshal is Director, Nielsen India. Reprinted with permission from Nielsen India

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