Neuroscience can improve the ROI on advertising: Gayathri Swahar

Last Updated: Fri, Aug 09, 2013 04:41 hrs

Gayathri Swahar
The New-York based $5.6 billion Nielsen Holdings is one the world's leading market research firms. In 2011, it acquired a company called NeuroFocus. Nielsen NeuroFocus uses neuroscience techniques - essentially brain mapping and eye tracking - to literally get into the minds of consumers and figure out what they like, don't like or are likely to do among thousands of other thoughts. It helps marketers understand the unarticulated thoughts of consumers which no amount of questioning and interviews can bring out.

These could be about packaging, taste, quality, advertising or any other elements of a product or its communication. Vanita Kohli-Khandekar spoke to Gayathri Swahar, director, Nielsen NeuroFocus,

India, on how neuroscience is becoming a marketing tool and (now) an aid for broadcasters coping with the 12-minute-per-hour ceiling on ad time:

How does neuroscience aid marketers?

Usually when we do market research we would ask a questions like 'Do you like my ad? Would you buy my product?' But you really don't know how accurate the answer is. At Nielsen NeuroFocus, we apply the science of neuroscience to research. So, for instance, if we are testing an ad, we will get a group of people in and they are given hats which have 32 nodes that map their brain while they are watching the ad. We blend this with eye-tracking. This measures attention, emotion and memory retention. Then, three direct metrics are derived from it. One, is the ad making you consider or leading you to action? Two, does it have novelty and three, is it easy to understand? It doesn't tell you if an ad has worked or not. What it tells you is what parts of the ad have worked. For example, if you wanted the ad to say that this food brand is healthy or that it reduces work, has that message gone through?

Can it be used across marketing problems and product categories?

We have used it across the globe in automobiles, (mobile) handsets and health food among other categories. Neuroscience can be used for anything from product, pacakging to advertising. It plugs into consumers' minds without asking questions.

Why is it useful for broadcasters and marketers facing the 12-minutes-per-hour ad cap?

What we can do with Nielsen NeuroFocus is neurocompression. That means we take a 30-second commercial and compress it into 10-12 seconds that are most effective, going by the mapping. This improves ROI (return on investment) for marketers and frees up ad inventory for broadcasters. We have used it extensively. And it is, by volumes, one of the largest parts of our business. But the last one year has seen a huge upside because of the 12-minute cap

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