Google Using Brain Research to Hone its Online Ads

Google has joined the stampede of advertisers who have embraced the tools of neuroscience to help them create the emerging generation of interactive ads. In the new model for marketing, the goal is to bypass our conscious, more rational, decision-making. They want to reach deeply into our emotional, unconscious, self. Hence, the gaggle of companies helping marketers with brain research. Google, by the way, is using the same company that recently tested how junk food ads affected consumer brains during the recent Olympic games. Neurofocus, the Berkeley-based company partnering with Google, won a major ad award for its help harnessing neuroscience to sell Frito-Lay chips. The growing role of neuroscience research for advertising (especially digital marketing) must be addressed by policymakers, health professionals, and other responsible parties. Here’s the Mediaweek excerpt:

“Google is so confident that its InVideo Ads product—those semi-transparent/animated overlay ads it launched on YouTube last year—are game changers that the company is turning to brain wave researchers to prove their effectiveness.

The search giant–in conjunction with MediaVest–has partnered with NeuroFocus, a researcher that specializes in biometrics, to gauge both how users respond to InVideo ads and how well those ads complement traditional banner ads. NeuroFocus specializes in measuring individuals’ brain response—by literally placing sensors on their heads—as well as other factors like pupil dilation and skin response.

“We were really interested in looking at what we think of as a pretty innovative ad unit,” explained Leah Spalding, advertising research manager, Google, who emphasized that since InVideo ads are designed to be non-intrusive, they warrant an evaluation that goes beyond traditional measures like click-through rates. “Standard metrics don’t tell the whole story…Specifically, after fielding a study among 40 participants last May, InVideo ads scored above average on a scale of one to 10 for measures like “attention” (8.5), “emotional engagement” (7.3) and “effectiveness” (6.6). According to officials, a 6.6 score is considered strong.

source: “Google, MediaVest Tap Biometrics for InVideo Ads Play.” Mike Shields. Mediaweek. October 23, 2008.

and more on the research via Mediapost: “…the NeuroFocus research conducted in May looked at the reactions of 40 people to YouTube InVideo overlay and companion banner ads from a cross-section of MediaVest advertising clients.

The firm used biometric measures such as brainwave activity, eye-tracking and skin response to gauge the impact of ads. Based on criteria including attention level, emotional engagement and memory retention, it then comes up with an overall “effectiveness” score for ads.”

“Google: This is your brain on advertising.” Mark Walsh. Mediapost. Oct. 23, 2008

PS: Google has been holding research discussions on such topics as “The Neuroscience of Emotions [Sept. 16, 2008]. Here’s the link to a presentation via YouTube.

Here’s another on computational neuroscience by a researcher who works on online advertising.

Author: jeff

Jeff Chester is executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. A former journalist and filmmaker, Jeff's book on U.S. electronic media politics, entitled "Digital Destiny: New Media and the Future of Democracy" was published by The New Press in January 2007. He is now working on a new book about interactive advertising and the public interest.

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