Tue, Dec 26, 2017 - Page 11 News List

Ad firms look to read your mind


Emily Safian-Demers of French advertising company Ipsos uses eye-tracking to test neuromarketing techniques at Ipos in Norwalk, Connecticut, on on Dec. 5.

Photo: AFP

Why did you splurge on that new pair of shoes or that smartphone?

More and more advertisers are trying to tap into the unconscious to divine the invisible forces that drive those spending decisions.

Using gadgets to track eye movements, computer maps of faces to capture a momentary grin (approval) or squinting (anger), and sensors to measure perspiration or monitor brain activity, companies are mining consumers’ raw emotions for information.

Traditionally, advertising firms have measured the success of their campaigns through consumer surveys, but that technique has its limits.

“It’s not that people won’t tell you, they actually can’t tell you why they’re making the decision they’re making,” said Jessica Azoulay, vice president of the market intelligence practice at Isobar, a digital marketing agency.

The new techniques recognize that our purchase decisions are driven by both rational and emotional factors, and reflect research showing the brain takes in information on different levels.

They “enable us to capture many different types of emotions and to be able to profile the emotions that are happening very granularly on a second-by-second basis,” said Elissa Moses, chief executive of the neuro and behavioral science business at Ipsos, a consultancy and market research firm.

“People won’t be able to tell you that something irritated them in scene three or thrilled them in scene seven, but we’ll know from looking at the facial coding,” Moses said.

The technologies can help track if brands are maintaining their edge over competitors and make ads more effective by determining what to highlight.

The techniques are also being applied to other industries, such as retail, which is experimenting on ways to attract customers in the Amazon.com Inc era.

“Ultimately, there is a dance between the conscious and unconscious,” Moses said. “In order to actually buy a product, you have to make a conscious decision.”

An eye-tracking test utilises technology-enhanced glasses with a camera to record what a person is seeing on a TV or in a store, and read how long the eye settles on a particular cue.

That can be combined with other methods, such as galvanic skin responses with sensors applied to a person’s hand to read perspiration, and electroencephalography, which reads brain activity through sensors on a person’s head.

The data is used to produce a “heat map,” with “hotspots” that show where the eye fixated.

Techniques measuring arousal can signal whether an ad stands out amid today’s media avalanche.

Other tests that are becoming more popular seek to shed light on unconscious associations with products or shopping needs.

Tivity Health Inc turned to many of the techniques for its “Silver Sneakers” fitness program for seniors, hiring Isobar to help it devise a marketing strategy.

Isobar had more than 1,000 seniors review a series of rapidly presented images and words about exercise.

Based on their clicks, the report showed the population most valued exercise because it made them feel empowered or “ready to go.”

The finding was important as Tivity weighed potential marketing campaigns, including “Living Life Well,” which featured images of age-defying seniors, such as a grandfatherly figure balancing a toddler on his back while doing push-ups.

The ads performed better than an alternative campaign showing groups of smiling seniors together in a swimming class and a gym, emphasizing the social aspect of Silver Sneakers.

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