How do you measure the impact of advertising and media context on your consumers?

It’s never been more important to ensure you’re getting a return on investment through advertising, yet as consumers change their consumption habits and Covid-19 places walls around what consumers consider essential, it’s not enough to just be in front of the consumer; a connection must be established.

Until recently, it has been nigh on impossible to measure if your adverts are truly connecting with your consumer at a subconscious level, which is a major concern because this is where most consumer decision-making takes place.   As consumers try to adjust to the ‘new normal’ following Covid-19, it’s become even more important for brands to know what resets have taken place in the subconscious.

It’s also been difficult for media owners to measure and articulate the impact of context on their audiences as they consume advertising. However, a new report by Neuro-Insight, ‘Context Uncut’, shows us how neuromarketing helps go beyond the silos in the modern age of media. 

Media is continuously adapting, and in the New Zealand market it is going through a time of disruption due to overseas competition and a recent push to strengthen our local offerings. Following the closure of Bauer Media due to the Covid-19 crisis, the landscape has never been more uncertain.

So finding out where advertising best fits in this new media landscape has been a question at the front of a lot of minds. Neuro-Insight’s report showcases how neuroscience can be used to track consumer engagement with advertising across different media platforms. It illustrates the importance of understanding the context of each media channel and its influence over consumer engagement and future behaviour.

With the developments in media and technology, advertising consumption is no longer the linear affair it once was. Instead, there’s now a plethora of new variables to consider, that all help shape our responses to advertising, more often than not, in ways we’re not consciously aware of. Neuroscience provides us with deeper insights into how consumers think, feel and make decisions. These insights have the potential to revolutionise traditional marketing and media practice. 

Media on the move

The report from Neuro-Insight highlights the importance of environmental context as it relates to the media which audiences are consuming; as technology advances so do our viewing habits. Now, digital out of home and cell phones both play an important  role in media consumption.

Neuro-Insight’s GM, Brian Hill, says “it’s clear that, when it comes to measuring campaign success today, advertisers need to use metrics that can take the impact of these variables into account, such as platform, device, editorial and physical environment. It’s also critical that media owners are able to measure the impact of the context of their channel in order to effectively articulate it’s value to advertisers.”

To  develop an understanding of the power of context,  Neuro-Insight teamed up with UK-based Radiocentre to test their campaigns  during relevant moments in listeners’ days. They found that the ads that were creatively tailored to the task that the audience are likely to be undertaking were more successful. For example, when exercise was explicitly mentioned in an ad for the Apple Watch, there was an immediate and sharp rise in memory encoding amongst those exercising , whereas response fell among those who heard the ad when engaged in a non-related task.

Fascinatingly, when the respondents heard ads playing in a situationally relevant context – such as when those  people who were driving  heard an ad for Highways England – their brains elicited much higher levels of engagement (personal relevance) and left-brain memory encoding, than those who heard the same ad whilst carrying out an unrelated task.

The reason for this is because whilst they may not have consciously been paying “attention” to the ads, because they were relevant to what they were doing, their brains still encoded the information implicitly – reiterating the fact that what we may consciously think we are paying attention to, does not always match with what’s going on in our subconscious.

Media and memory encoding

In 2019, a study was developed in NZ in partnership with the Newspaper Publishers’ Association  to examine the effectiveness of campaigns.

In the New Zealand-based study, more than 100 participants of varying demographics were shown a range of newspaper and TV campaigns. Using sensors fitted onto lycra caps, the technology shows how different parts of the brain ‘light up’, depending on how the information is being processed.

They measured the ability of advertising communications to cut through and get into long-term memory as well as the intensity of emotion that people feel, and their level of attention when they’re exposed to advertising content.

NPA’s GM, Brook Cameron, says that the study showed that with a premium, trusted news environment the audience is actively engaged in the content and that carried through to the advertising, making it more memorable and stickier.

Brook Cameron

Cameron said this information helps advertisers understand how they can apply neuroscience insights to improve their media planning and creative development. “Understanding the role of print media, knowing that it can deliver on both emotion and detail, knowing that readers are also responding to the environment the advertising is in, is very powerful in developing an effective campaign.” Cameron said.

For example, when a television ad was viewed before the newspaper advertising, the ability of the print ad to kickstart long-term memory encoding increased by 26 percent. This is important because memory encoding is the most crucial measure and has been proven to link to future behaviour such as buying a product.

The researchers hypothesised that because newspapers require a higher level of attention than television, people would process information differently than they would while being entertained. The results showed that participants were far more likely to store the detail of advertising messages in their long term memory when reading a Newspaper than being entertained watching TV.

This information is consistent with that of Neuro-Insight’s 2019 report, which shows that the editorial context, platform, device, and even physical environment in which a person consumes advertising can impact its effectiveness.

For example, the report showed that ads perform better in a digital premium editorial context, with engagement being over 50 percent higher on editorial sites than during general free browsing.

“This is a good example of why we should never underestimate how people are going to respond to the ads they see,” says the report. “Sometimes, the most consciously intuitive link isn’t necessarily the right one.”

Neuro-Insight’s GM, Brian Hill, says that the success of a campaign can be hard to quantify, as engagement isn’t an overly measurable metric. ”In order to leverage context to the best of its ability, we first need to remove the guesswork and get straight to the point about what makes messages successful to consumers (or otherwise).   Using neuroscience we can look into the subconscious mind and accurately measure the impact of context. This provides the answers we need to develop effective communication that drives business outcomes.”

To learn more about how Neuro-Insight can help you establish a subconscious connection with your clients, email [email protected] 

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