Hi Kids, old Doc Media here to set you mind straight about this “breakthrough”. While this type of technology–eye movements, wired seats, etc., –goes back to the 70’s, and now we have a cool update, I challenge either of these companies to prove their claim that their results are “better” than focus groups, or polling. Where is the evidence. The few examples sited, and the fact of raising money from Nielson, does not prove their claims. Also, the clear statement is that they are “inferring “, from their data what is going on in the minds of the subjects. Well we call that interpretation, exactly the method used for all other data collection methods. Interpretation based on what criteria, developed by whom, compared to what?
While I am as interested in this technology as anyone in marketing ,perhaps more so, I think that a realistic presentation of what this can in fact produce, compared to the other methods it claims to be improving upon, should require some actual real research and data being reports.
I would be happy to provide a media psychologist’s counterpoint to the assessment made by either of these methods using a control group and any topic or presentation . I venture that my results will be at least as good as theirs,if not better, but we won’t know till we set up the experiment will we?
Coming to a marketer near you: Brain scanning
Tom Abate, Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, May 19, 2008
U.S. advertisers spent nearly $500 per American last year. But what makes one ad persuasive and another a dud? Two Bay Area firms have adapted brain scanning technology to gain insight into the science of spending.
“We can’t read your mind, I assure you,” said A.K. Pradeep, chief executive of NeuroFocus. But his Berkeley firm can do the next best thing – scan your brain to map the electrochemical spikes thought to signify attention, emotion and memory.
“This is the next generation in market research,” said Hans Lee, chief technology officer for EmSense Corp. The San Francisco startup also is using electro encephalograph, or EEG, technology to correlate brain activity with physiological cues such as skin temperature or eye movement to gauge how people react to ads, computer games, even presidential candidates.
EmSense and NeuroFocus are leaders in neuro-marketing, a field that aspires to create objective measures of the effectiveness of the $149 billion that U.S. firms spent last year on advertising, according to TNS Media Intelligence, to reach 300 million Americans.
UC Berkeley neuroscientist Robert Knight, a scientific adviser to NeuroFocus, said neuro-marketing has arisen at the confluence of three trends: a better understanding of the regions of the brain; precise sensors to measure when, say, the memory center is active; and software to infer from these telltale signs whether a given message resonated with men or women of different ages.
“Neuroscience today is where physics was at the turn of the last century,” Knight said. “We’ve had the groundbreaking thoughts and theories. Now we are measuring and testing.”
Science laid the foundation for neuro-marketing by studying conditions such as attention deficit disorder, which taught researchers how to recognize the electrical signals of alertness, and Alzheimer’s disease, which required an understanding of how we form memories. Such studies have revealed which areas of the brain become active when we see a tiger leap across a screen or watch a baby smile – signals captured using instruments such as sensitive EEGs.
Both NeuroFocus and EmSense base their systems around devices that measure brain activity on the surface of the scalp. NeuroFocus uses a skull cap studded with electrodes. EmSense engineered its sensor into a headband that slips on and off easily. Both firms also track other physiological data – eye motion, for instance – to know what the person is watching.
In practice, the firms pay test subjects to watch commercials. Subjects are wired with the appropriate sensors, which record their reactions. The technology can measure how men and women, for example, perceive scenes differently.
Lee showed one television commercial that depicts a pregnant woman eating a dish of ice cream. Some drops on her belly, soiling her clothes. The ad goes on to show how machine washing with Tide lifts the stain. When women watched that scene, their brain scans indicated concern when the ice cream dropped and relief when the clothing emerged stain-free. Men showed little or no emotional response, suggesting the commercial didn’t work for them.
“Some of the men laughed,” Lee said.
Some are skeptical
Skeptics say despite its scientific aura, neuro-marketing doesn’t do much more than confirm what common sense would tell us anyway – don’t advertise detergent to men.
“Guess what: Babies and puppies do a lot better to sell things than toothless old men,” said Jim Meskauskas, vice president for online media with ICON International and advertising industry pundit.
Neuro-marketers say advertisers validate their technology by paying for it.
“Nobody says no,” said Lee.
EmSense has focused its brain scans on voters watching both the Democratic and Republican primary races to determine how they react to various candidates. That generated stories – and questions about whether such techniques were appropriate.
Unlike its San Francisco rival, Berkeley’s NeuroFocus will not use its brain scanning technology in politics.
“We are perfectly comfortable to help determine whether one kind of cereal advertisement is better than another, but we don’t think it is reasonable or right to use tools like ours to help persuade you that one candidate is better for you than another,” said Pradeep.
Better than polling?
But Elissa Moses, chief analytics officer for EmSense, said neuro-marketing gave better measures of gut-level responses than either focus groups or polls, both of which have long been staples of political contests.
“Do ethics shift when you have a sharper tool,” she asked rhetorically, adding: “Political candidates are products, and political advertising is advertising.”
Ethical arguments aside, the cost of neuro-marketing studies are likely to make the technique too expensive for routine political use.
Pradeep said NeuroFocus charges $50,000 to $1 million for its analytics, depending on what is being studied and how many subjects must be tested. The Berkeley startup recently got an investment of undisclosed size from the Nielsen Co., whose chief executive, David Calhoun, now sits on its board, another indication of interest in the field.
Through the Nielsen connection, NeuroFocus also got a foot in the door at ESPN, which hired the startup last fall to ascertain whether sponsors – whose logos the sports network displays during newscasts – were being noticed.
“It’s difficult to answer that through survey research,” said Peter Leimbach, vice president for multimedia sales and research at ESPN, who hired NeuroFocus.
But with eye tracking to record what test subjects were watching and brain scans to show whether there was a flash of recognition, ESPN was able to discern whether sponsor logos were getting noticed and make tweaks to improve attention and retention, he said.
Daniel Pope, a historian at the University of Oregon who has studied advertising, said marketers have always hopped on science to sell soap. But while the tools for measuring response get more precise, we are far from turning persuasion into a science.
“A lot of what goes on in the advertising world is about guesswork and surmise,” he said.
E-mail Tom Abate at email@example.com.