Managers rarely conduct a thorough analysis of programs accompanying the TV ads they create. They usually invest media money intuitively in those shows they believe their target audiences watch. Yet, the program’s environment can strengthen a positive perception of a spot or have a discouraging effect, even if it is viewed by the same audience or during the same prime-time slot. For example, an ad aired during a commercial break of an action movie (“Munich” by Steven Spielberg) was ignored by the audience’s brain (n=44) while the same spot played during the romantic comedy (“Love Actually” by Richard Curtis) was perceived more attentively. The difference in this case was related to the amygdala (a little almond shaped structure located in subcortical part of the brain) which became active during violent scenes in “Munich” and then, automatically, during a scene with erotic innuendos in the ad. Meanwhile, the promoted product was neglected by the viewers’ prefrontal cortex, which is activated when a stimulus is emotionally engaging or relevant. However, during the comedy, viewers’ brains “perceived” the product scenes as very relevant. Traditional qualitative tests confirmed that all the brand influence indices were increased during the comedy, not the action movie.
In another R&D study we tested a product from the FMCG category.
The ad was placed during three different television programs. We used a total of nine TV program environments: three talk shows, three TV series and three police docudramas all selected from the top three TV channels, again at the same prime time of airing. We measured neuro reactions of 396 respondents as well as their behavioral choices, a shelf test in which subjects were asked to choose between the advertised and the competitor’s brand. Out of the people who watched the ad accompanied by the TV shows 27% chose the advertised product, during the TV series – 37% and during the police docudramas – 41%. It was in full concordance with neuro reactions, the highest prefrontal activation occurred during docudramas, the lowest in talk shows. It seems that for this type of product, a bloody and violent environment and not the comedy (as many might guess) seemed optimal. In turn the product category described earlier — was strengthened by sweet romance programming. As one can see there are no good or bad programming contexts, it all depends on the nature of a product category. Routine neuro tests would help analyze basic categories of TV programs and plot them on a matrix of basic product categories. This pioneering effort would enable advertisers to get the most out of a single GRP, neuro GRP we’d call it. Before competitors start to copy, and before there is an extra media charge for it.