Value Test

Release pleasure engines

Kathy O'Meara

In these darker economic times, it's being loudly whispered that advertising is about to become an endangered species. Or, will the most cunning players evolve, with Darwinian precision, into a new hybrid species to ensure their own survival?

How the brain responds to stimuli has long been debated across media portals, with little consensus. The exploration of cognitive functioning has moved on apace with neuroscientists now examining, through MRI scanning, the separate neurons in the brain responsible for memory encoding, decision making, mirrored learning and emotion.

The aim is to produce a scientific rationale for ad appeal. Prof Gemma Calvert of Neurosense said: “Because so much of our thought occurs in the unconscious, traditional research methods that mine the surface are likely to miss many of the factors that influence consumer behaviour. Bridging the gap between mind and behaviour is one of the challenges facing marketers today. Cognitive neuroscience bridges that gap.”

Ergo, our cells will predict with far greater accuracy future decisions and buying patterns, than waking consciousness. Nor will the cells be embarrassed to reveal predilections and preferences… Is this development alarming? Sinister? Academically interesting? John Hegarty argues that as soon as we begin to understand the brain it will subvert and reshape. Our emotions, not logic, overtake us, and that's what makes us interesting.

Many of the greatest creative minds have an instinctive, not learnt, understanding of the evolving human psyche. Sony Bravia ‘Colour Like No Other' originated as a two-line script outlining coloured balls bouncing through a San Francisco streetscape. The frog appeared as a last minute humour bolt-on, generating a significant ‘light up' on the neuroscanner. Similarly, the emotional response generated by Cadbury's ‘Gorilla' mirrored the creative intention to communicate the feeling of scoffing a bar of chocolate. Do we need neuroscience? Can it solve the conundrum of which half of advertising spend is wasted? Perhaps now, when harnessing brilliant creative brains seems such a hurdle, harnessing a few brilliant neuro-boffins may be the answer.


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