BT: Can It Mean Behavioral Responses To Ads?

Can behavioral targeting also mean understanding human behavior in reaction to an advertising campaign? Companies touting the targeting of online ads to consumers as a mixture of art and science could soon find psychologists employed among their midst. The need to better understand human behavior will prompt the shift, as the technology becomes more affordable and agencies attempt to regain their online footing following the industry slowdown.

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.

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4 comments about "BT: Can It Mean Behavioral Responses To Ads? ".
  1. Carolyn Hansen from Hacker Group , June 4, 2009 at 3:01 p.m.

    I'm showing my bias as a direct marketer, but I have to wonder why it's so significant to know that my advertising message made someone sweat or raised their heart rate. That's not really the goal, is it? In direct marketing, the goal is sales. In traditional advertising the goal is awareness or brand liking. Not palpitations.

    The significant quote is: "When the media evokes an emotional response -- a rise in active attention -- then you know you have a message that had an impact."

    Maybe. But you have no idea what kind of impact.

    It strikes me as a little sad that David Ogilvy himself (for whom I assume the Grand Ogilvy is named) said "If I want to get a high recall score, all I have to do is put a gorilla in a jockstrap." Attention is not the goal. Nor is it necessarily persuasive.

    There are better behaviors to measure. There are easier and less expensive ways to measure them.

  2. Andre Szykier from maps capital management , June 4, 2009 at 5:29 p.m.

    This sounds like cold fusion - hydrogen from water.
    No matter how you determine a physical response in a controlled setting, in the real world, people are NOT focused on the ad but on the media content they access. Unless the ad has a ontological relationship to content, it basically is clutter. Only in the rare case where the ad stimulates a response preconditioned by some earlier need of the viewer, measuring response is useless. The only areas it makes sense is in the presentation layer - where do people's vision concentrate on the ad content, for how long and whether they click. This is already done in ad design. Let's face it, looking at a coupon offer is not all that sexy: Parts is parts.

  3. Kurt Johansen from Johansen International , June 4, 2009 at 7 p.m.

    The emotion which is invoked from an ad has to do with the need, desire, fear a prospect would have for the particular product or service. It is finding 'where the starving crowd' is if you wish to build a food outlet, that is what is important. When you do, you will know as they will be beating down your door to be fed. This research may work in a shotgun approach or critiquing the ending of a movie but I suggest a marketer research their audience better. But then again I deal in targeted email marketing because we do not wish to be an interruption in someone's life. Kurt Johansen - Australia's Email Marketing Guru. http://www.kurtjohansen.com

  4. Leonore Becker , June 5, 2009 at 2:56 p.m.

    As an industry, market research has gone from collecting demographic data to psychographic data, to behavior responses, to attitudes. Attitudes, the way people think about things, preceed behavior responses. You think 'it' before you do 'it'. Big business has the resources and budget to keep on top of consumer attitudes, but small business can conduct their own survey from their existing clients to guage attitudes. Here's a repost of an article I wrote and posted on smartbrief.com on June 4, 2009. Leonore Becker Attitudes Marketing
    www.attitudesmarketing.com leonore@attitudesmarketing.com,
    www.khvhradio.com/kenbecker
    How do you increase sales when buyers are scarce and their definition of value has changed? You attract more customers like the ones you already have. When your customer base is shrinking, you must find a way to carve out a bigger piece of the available customer pie.
    To do this you must get out behind the counter or get out of your office and talk to your loyal customers; find out what's on their minds...if you ask them, they will tell you. Ask the same questions of everyone you talk to and Keep track of their answers. You’ll learn why they shop at your location, what they like and dislike about the experience, and your customers’ viewpoint of what can be done to improve things.
    In a recent survey I conducted for a shopping center, I asked just 10 questions of 100 shoppers over two days and learned what issues needed to be solved, what enhancements to the experience could easily be made and I uncovered a few misperceptions (that spread like wildfire) that needed to be corrected.
    From the information you gain from your current clients, you'll be able to craft an approach that sends a 'message' that will connect with the people you already determined will respond, because it will be relevant to them; it will be meaningful to their life. People ‘pick up their ears’ to messages that resonate with them; like a radar beam, their attention is drawn as if you were talking directly to them and addressing their needs.
    If you’ve ever bought a new car you know what I mean. As soon as you make your selection and drive that Mini Cooper off the lot, you recognize everyone on the road that drives a Mini. You have an affinity with the drivers of these cars because they made the same choice as you made. It is validation; a ‘fellow feeling’ that creates an attraction.
    In addition to getting to the root of the problems and hearing shoppers’ ideas for solutions, just by talking to shoppers you gain loyalty because they feel personally recognized and involved. Like foot soldiers, they go out into the marketplace and spread the good words. With loyal patrons on the positive side of any conversation, it helps to squeeze out any negative perceptions floating around.
    So in addition to cutting costs to survive, go forth and ask questions of your customers; don’t defend or debate, just listen and take notes. Then craft a message and create experiences that resonate with people who resemble your current customers’ mind-set or attitude. You’ll find they will listen because you’re talking their language. Leonore Becker Attitudes Marketing
    http://www.attitudesmarketing.com
    leonore@attitudesmarketing.com,
    Weekly Marketing Radio Show,
    “Get Down to Small Business”
    http://www.khvhradio.com