TV advertising on my mind

Thinkbox published its first study of TV advertising using brain scans of various kinds today. I haven't had time to read the whole study yet. And its kind of intriguing that the study is framed as a comparison between TV and online (why would that be I wonder?). But the conclusions about the way TV works combining high attention (at least for the first couple of viewings) with the laydown of longterm memory are persuasive at least to me. What is highlighted is the importance of narrative – don't put your branding right next to the payoff of the gag because no one will see it, the importane of facial expression (because human beings devote huge amounts of brain power to decoding other people) and the power of music to create associations at an emotional level. This is all good advice which is easy to implement.

What it made me think was the way in which the brain processes lots of different streams of data at once. And my conclusion in brief is that we need to pay attention to spare capacity – which is not being used but could be – and the primary channels in the cortex and the emotional centres are already pretty busy. And secondly to pay attention to constraints – if the channel is full then some of the data is simply lost. And branding is prone to this because who is behind the ad isn't nearly as interesting most of the time as what is going on in front of my nose.  So pacing is also important.

I think its time we had a grown up conversation about subliminal advertising because by this account much of what is being processed isn't at the conscious level. Time to deal on an ethical level with unethical communication that the customer can't notice and object to.



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