Brain Drain: Neuro Researcher EmSense Goes On The Block

EmSense, a leader in the promising field of neuromarketing research, is on the block and could be broken up as the company talks to various suitors about its technology, methods and intellectual property related to measuring how advertising, marketing and media influence people's brains. News that something was afoot began spreading on Twitter over the weekend when two of the company's top executives canceled speaking engagements at high-profile industry conferences at the last minute.

One of them, Elissa Moses, Chief Analytics Officer, confirmed to MediaDailyNews that EmSense is "going through a sales process," and was not taking on any new project work but would see all current work for marketers, agencies, media companies and other marketing researchers through completion.

She denied reports that the company was going out of business. "We're completing all of our current projects that are in the pipeline, but we're not starting any new projects," she said.

She declined to discuss what suitors EmSense was in talks with, but she said it had retained an investment banking firm to handle the negotiations.



The news comes as the field of neuromarketing research is expected to take off as big marketing organizations have become more interested in how to apply the neuroscience to marketing research, and as a number of the key players claim breakthroughs in methods and technologies to measure it.

The Advertising Research Foundation has made a major push in the field, and is poised to release an important white paper based on a series of tests it conducted earlier this year with a half-dozen neuromarketing researchers. Interestingly, neither EmSense nor Nielsen-owned NeuroFocus participated in those tests, creating tensions and some confusion in the industry about their motives for not doing so.

Industry estimates vary, but Emsense was believed to have been the second largest player in the sector, just behind NeuroFocus, and both those companies claim to have proprietary technologies that can sense the neural activity of people's brains with enough fidelity to understand what they are thinking and feeling, and to determine how to apply that toward influencing their behaviors.

Others in the field utilize other biometric methods, including eye-tracking, galvanic skin response (sweating), heart rates, and even facial code recognition that can reveal cognitive and emotional responses to advertising and media, including Boston-based Innerscope Research, which is believed to be the third largest player in the field after NeuroFocus and Emsense.

EmSense's Moses would not elaborate on why the company was pursuing strategic alternatives now, but said she expected the sales process to be resolved soon.

Earlier this year, EmSense issued a press release stating that it was on a "high growth trajectory," and claimed to have measured the neural activity of more than 110,000 people in 25 countries for major brands, agencies and other research organizations. Last year, it announced a partnership with WPP's Millward Brown division, one of the largest research companies in the world specializing in the testing of advertising effectiveness, and a likely suitor for some of EmSense's assets.

The company has been backed by a couple of big Silicon Valley-based venture capital firms, which have sunk millions of dollars into its research and development.

Next story loading loading..