For example, this year One To One Interactive will open its primary research lab, OTOinsights, to other advertising agencies and research firms, according to Jeremi Karnell, the company's president Along with the main lab in Charleston, Mass., a mobile lab that can travel anywhere offers input on eye tracking; click tracking; bio-feedback such as heart rate, respiratory rate, galvanic skin response; neuro-feedback such as EEG/active attention; and facial recognition technology that interprets six fundamental human emotions: happy, sad, angry, surprised, scared, disgusted, and neutral. The senior research technician who runs the lab has a background in psychology and a joint MBA/Masters in usability.
The benefit of having a psychologist on board lets OTO develop research that validates Web site layouts and advertising campaigns. "When the media evokes an emotional response -- a rise in active attention -- then you know you have a message that had an impact," Karnell says.
The ability to tap into psychological and physiological testing for ad targeting is an emerging field. OTO's Karnell, along with Gord Hotchkiss, CEO of the search marketing firm Enquiro, have been chipping away for years, attempting to educate industry executives -- especially those lacking a background in science and technology -- about the benefits of such research.
There are between 10 and 15 firms similar to OTO and Enquiro spearheading efforts. Some look at bio-feedback. Neurofocus, Berkeley, Calif., for example, focuses on EEG electroencephalographic- (EEG-) based neurological testing that reveals the degrees of attention, emotional engagement, and memory retention that consumers experience at the deep subconscious level of the brain.
The company recently took the top prize from the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) 2009 Grand Ogilvy Award, which honors companies contributing to advertising campaigns that demonstrate "the most successful use of research in the creation of superior advertising that achieves a critical business objective." Neurofocus won for its work on Frito-Lay's "The Orange Underground" campaign for its Cheetos brand.
Karnell notes the Advertising Research Foundation's s campaign to create a universal definition of "engagement" that would change how firms look at the effectiveness of ads. The previous definition had traditional notions of engagement, especially in the interactive space. New ideas go beyond traditional metrics and begin to factor in human attention and emotional response.
Another reason for the delay in broad industry adoption of this kind of research has been cost. Between 2000 and 2005, according to Karnell, the neuromarketing research field had been geared toward processes involving CAT scans. These giant machines were created for universities and hospitals, not the average ad agency or marketing firm.
Neuro-marketing, the practice of measuring neurological responses to commercials, print ads or campaigns, has been used in different capacities for years, but it has been gaining interest among advertisers. Last year Nielsen expressed interest in Harvard Professor Gerald Zaltzman's patent for neuroimaging to measure media exposure. Karnell was approached to buy the patent, but didn't because he felt at the time the technology had a long way before it became an affordable measurement tool.
Aside from the fine art of marketing and advertising, the science will go much further than analytics to determine what works and what doesn't work in a campaign. I won't be surprised to see new focuses soon at universities that offer a degree in advertising or marketing with an emphasis in bio- and neuro-feedback or psychology.