Fox Researchers Use Brain Data to Predict Real-Life Success of TV Ads

Researchers at Temple University’s Fox School of Business have identified an area of the brain that can significantly better predict the success of TV advertising.

Angelika Dimoka

Professors Angelika Dimoka, Paul A. Pavlou and Vinod Venkatraman led the research study at Temple’s Center for Neural Decision Making at the Fox School of Business. The research team received a $286,000 research grant from the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF), a non-profit group that provided TV ads from major sponsor companies in the consumer-goods, financial, technology, travel, and pharmaceutical industries.. The study sought to understand whether measures obtained in the lab when a small number of consumers watched these TV ads can predict the success of these ads in terms of increasing sales in the market.

Their research paper recently has been accepted for publication in the Journal for Marketing Research, a top marketing journal. They completed the study in collaboration with researchers from New York University, Duke University and the University of California, Los Angeles, who analyzed available sales and success data from the TV ads.

Fox School’s research team evaluated the responses of more than 300 participants to television advertisements using eight distinct methods: traditional surveys; implicit measures; eye tracking; heart rate; skin conductance; breathing; and brain activity, as measured by fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and EEG (electroencephalography).

Vinod Venkatraman

“This is the first study to relate individual-level measures in the lab to market-level behavior,” said Venkatraman, lead author and Assistant Professor of Marketing. “We show that physiological and brain responses to a 30-second TV advertisement can provide reliable markers for evaluating its actual success in the market.”

“Based on our research and findings, from all seven neurophysiological methods, brain data collected using fMRI, were the most predictive,” added Angelika Dimoka, Director of the Center for Neural Decision Making, and an Associate Professor of Marketing.  Specifically, we are able to show that activation in an area of the brain known as the ventral striatum, the reward center of the brain, can predict a TV ad success. The higher the activation in the ventral striatum, the higher the success of the TV ad. Nobody has ever been able to make such a linkage.”

The findings suggest that a key to a successful TV ad, Venkatraman noted, is the ability to increase the desirability of the product featured in the TV ad – a construct that is difficult to measure through the use of traditional, self-reported measures.

Paul Pavlou

“A researcher might ask a test participant, more traditionally, ‘Do you like this ad? Are you likely to purchase this product?’” said Pavlou, Fox School’s Associate Dean of Research and Chief Research Officer. “While subjective measures like traditional questionnaires can still predict the success of TV advertising, the use of neurophysiological measures, especially fMRI, can almost double the power of our prediction.”

Dimoka, Pavlou and Venkatraman began their research December 2012, after meeting ARF officials at the second Interdisciplinary Symposium on Decision Neuroscience, sponsored and hosted by the Fox School of Business. They concluded their testing and research six months later.

 
Professor Pavlou has taught in the Fox School of Business Executive MBA program in Singapore. Learn about the top ranked EMBA program.

Discover the Power