Is Neuromarketing Dead?

Instead of relying on questionnaires and focus groups, isn’t it more reliable to use cold, hard data? And what better data than actual thought patterns of consumers?

The hype around neuromarketing has died down somewhat from its inception in the early 1990s, but neuromarketing itself still very much a part of the modern marketer’s toolkit. Brain scans, facial coding, and biometrics offer insights on consumers that are not available from other data sources. Fortune 500 companies (such as Forbes and Nielsen) have acquired neuromarketing firms for in-house neuromarketing divisions; there are a plethora of independent consulting firms offering the latest technologies available to marketers on a consulting basis. They promise to deliver unravel the consumer mind using biometric technologies backed by brilliant scientists.

The attraction of neuromarketing lies in its physical basis. Data gathered by carefully calibrated scientific instruments doesn’t lie. No longer do marketers have to rely on self-reported preferences and experiences of consumers and focus groups—hard data gathered on brain activity isn’t subject to uncertainty or dishonesty. It has a similar appeal to ‘big data’ as a source of insight into consumer behavior. Even honest consumers can’t always explain themselves.

This view of customers fundamentally changes the way we frame advertising in general and marketing techniques in particular. Viewing the ‘consumer’ as a biological entity with preferences influenced by emotions allows for unique insights. Marketers who can precisely define the goals of an ad campaign can use neuromarketing tools to uncover how consumers react to products. A prominent snack-food company based a packaging-switch around neuromarketing data after finding feelings of guilt and regret evoked by their shiny yellow bags.

None of this would be possible without recent developments in biometric technology. Neuromarketing techniques can be separated into two broad categories, neural imaging and physiological measurement. Imaging technologies such as fMRI, EEG, and SST measure brain activity with varying sensitivity; heart rate, facial expressions and eye-tracking can all be monitored using an array of sensors.

Currently, neuromarketing studies are limited to measuring consumer response to advertising or products. Because of the brain’s trillion-connection neural network, it is difficult to establish broad conclusions about behavior and preferences.

Neuromarketing projects face the twin problems of external validity and reverse inference. In a laboratory setting, the brain of subjects might “light up” when they are shown smiling faces or hear music, but it is hard to prove that the reverse—happy people and music make ads more engaging—is not due to experimental conditions or confounding factors. Fortunately, advertisers are often not interested in making long-term conclusions about human nature but instead want to test a specific product before it is launched. Neuromarketing provides the tools for them to do just that.

Video is not TV (part 2)

It is a waste of the ubiquitous computing power to keep using an outdated, static, TV-inspired engagement model for a dynamic online environment. Browsers have the power to enable real-time communication between users and advertisers.

This isn’t in any way an attack on television commercials; instead, it’s quite the opposite. We feel that advertisers use the same video on both TV and online publishers because monkeying with the content isn’t an easy task. The EngageClick platform has made it possible to import video advertising content that you’ve already paid for and add simple layers of engagement so you can optimize it for Web publishers.

It’s not a question of tailoring every single advertisement to have interactive capabilities, for instance. The whole problem behind using a TV commercial-style approach is that personalization of online campaigns is too high-cost. We provide an interface that allows users to layer stock engagements onto stock advertising inventory, streamlining the process for adding engagement directly into video.

It’s possible to run the same video to a wide audience using different engagement solutions for every viewer across the Web, then use our built-in analytics to discover the solutions providing the most engagement.

The important message to take away is that the possibilities of Web advertising are far greater than paying a creative for a more interesting video. We provide a vast array of different engagement layers for you to use in your video that simply aren’t available to TV advertising. Conversely, we need to move beyond the fundamentals of TV advertising when we publish video on the Web. We’re making this possible on a grand scale. It’s not about publishing custom interactive ads anymore, it’s about using individual layers of engagement to put on top of the ad inventory that’s already been made.

We’d like to make the process of channel optimization more efficient for advertisers. Instead of offering a one-off customization service to make stellar ad campaigns, like a creative might, we’d like to create technology that will let even your interns make your videos engaging. Just make sure they pick up coffee first.

Video is not TV (Part 1)

Who are your audiences? There isn’t just one type of viewer. Honestly, every content consumer in America changes audiences a dozen times a day. Every time a person moves from their car, to their couch, to their computer chair, they metaphorically change seats as well to a different audience.

To engage audiences, marketers must have a deep understanding of viewers’ attributes—and to that end, video is not TV. Television is a channel to deliver video, but video itself is not restricted by delivery method.

Television is fundamentally a broadcast experience defined by the huge size of network audiences. The impact of an ad that reaches millions of viewers at once has a huge impact. Networks charge huge prices for this privilege, and that puts a huge cost of failure onto every TV commercial. However, the huge audience guarantees that every TV commercial isn’t going to move everyone in the audience the same way. A wide net misses many fish.

Video doesn’t have to be restricted by these terms, but we’ve taken the old TV commercial model and applied it everywhere. When we see pre-roll ads on YouTube, for example, we’ve taken the TV commercial approach and fitted it into the online video experience.


Because it’s easy? It certainly is.
Because we’re restricted by technology? We certainly aren’t.
Because we haven’t come up with anything better? We have.

We’d like to focus on how to engage specific members of the audience, rather than defining the target audience. Targeting is interesting, but it’s a problem that’s common to all video channels.

The primary question for advertisers always comes back to return on investment—how do we impact more people in a cost effective way?

Advertisers are looking at an incredible opportunity to take the stock video advertising they already have to put on the Web. ROI is the main reason behind the identical advertising strategy across different video channels. It’s cheaper to take the same commercial that you’ve created for television and chop it into 30/15/6 second spots that you can air across different Internet platforms like YouTube and Vine, rather than creating an entirely customized online campaign.

We don’t see a problem with using TV-style video advertising as a starting point for online video ads, but we have a problem with the pace of innovation around the online video experience. Part 2 of the post will discuss how the EngageClick platform can use existing creatives to enable real-time communications between users and advertisers.

Gold, Just Lying on the Ground

Everybody loves free content. Free news, free videos, free blogs…let the party never stop. Who could even imagine paying for content on the Web?

Advertisers, that’s who. Coca Cola, Chevrolet and Adobe (to name a few) pay for ad space and audiences. Banner ads are cheap, and bloggers sell the real estate for them by the thousands. Video ads cost more, and content providers (Hulu and YouTube, perhaps) make a tidy profit. Even the New York Times can’t pull off paid content; about 15% of their revenue comes from digital advertising. It’s around $100 million per quarter, they’ll pull through.

All these millions in ad money pay for our beloved free content, of course, and advertisers aren’t just big-hearted softies. They expect something for sinking their profit margin into their ad budget, and the gluttonous consumers of free content (us) pay for content by clicking on their ads. We click in hordes; Facebook users in the US alone clicked 41 million times in 2011 .

That’s all old news, of course; digital advertising is where the big money is. Ads provide the only source of revenue for many online companies and blogs, and advertising is a sizeable portion of almost any website’s income.

Sadly, banner ads no longer provide streams of excited consumers flocking to e-tailers. Years of exposure to annoying display advertising has left blog readers with “banner blindness”:

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That’s what banner blindness is, and it’s killing display advertising. Ad content doesn’t even matter because users don’t even see the ads. Advertisers and creatives should be actively searching for new channels of display advertising that don’t have terrible CTR or banner blindness problems.

So…what if there was a novel source of advertising real estate that nobody’s selling on blogs, or video sites, or social networks? That’s what advertisers are dying for.