CBS: TV Spots More Effective Using Neuroscience Techniques

BrainCBS will use neuroscience to help create promotional campaigns for four TV shows this fall.

Neuroscience has been in vogue over the last few years, bringing attention to the effectiveness of specific TV content. Much of the focus has been on TV commercials. Working with CBS, Nielsen NeuroFocus founder and CEO Dr. A. K. Pradeep has found a way to conduct neurological analysis' of TV advertising audiences in order to gauge effectiveness.

The answer? Reduce the filler -- otherwise known as "neuro-compression." This technology enables the most effective scenes within a TV spot to be identified and edited into shorter and often more "neurologically" impactful marketing messages.

Basically, human brains can figure out messages/storylines from just a few content segments.

“Our brains are so smart, they retain the key pieces of logic, the key pieces of the flow,” said Dr. Pradeep, on “If you threw out all the fillers … and got to the core, it’s a lot more effective. [Neuro-Compression] ends up producing a better product.”

CBS didn't disclose what the TV promos would be or for which shows. But David Poltrack, chief research officer of CBS Corp., called the effort a "very exciting project" on

CBS said the technology could apply for all TV marketers, reducing media buying costs by coming up with a shorter TV commercial/message. Plus, TV marketers could repurpose the ad through cross-platform opportunities, such as online, mobile and in-store digital displays.

Said Poltrack: “We believe that in the case of online and mobile, we’re in a new frontier."

7 comments about "CBS: TV Spots More Effective Using Neuroscience Techniques".
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  1. Claudio Marcus from FreeWheel, June 28, 2012 at 8:06 a.m.

    Beyond advances in the neuroscience of advertising, marketers must realize that because TV campaigns reach broad audiences, using a single creative message greatly limits the potential effectiveness of a TV campaign. Using multiple messages targeted to distinct consumer segments improves the likelihood of getting the right message in front of the right audience.

    Even when using neuroscience for message optimization, targeting ads optimized for specific consumer target segments will likely yield even better results than relying on a single ad.

  2. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, June 28, 2012 at 1:07 p.m.

    This is a bit of a scary release from Nielsen - to wholeheartedly throw away their solid research past and bet this publicly on neuroscience. It's interesting that their "key" observation isn't really anything surprising - and so tightly tied to increasing media dollars they get. Neuroscience applied to marketing walks directly into the critical observational research fallacy. Here's some clearer thoughts about the neuroscience fallacy as it applies to advertising. (Fundamentally, there's some stuff to be learned - but nothing anywhere near as clear as press release material.)

  3. Augustine Fou from FouAnalytics, July 2, 2012 at 7:15 p.m.

    Agreed, Claudio. If you are able to target each segment with a more pertinent message than one generic, blended average message, then the response will definitely be better.

    Imagine being able to test thousands of variations of creative in digital and getting real time feedback via actual analytics. The new test and learn methodologies made possible by digital can make advertising orders of magnitude more efficient and cost effective.

  4. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, July 3, 2012 at 5:17 p.m.

    I disagree about hyper-targeting TV spots. Fragmenting your communication dollar is unwise. So where is the boundary between some variation in commercials and hyper-targeting where the sum of the parts is less than the whole? It's also a mistake to believe that targeting doesn't leak. It leaks like a sieve and many people you don't expect will see an ad you target to a specific market. The result? Nike offends consumers that way. Other companies merely waste their money.

  5. Claudio Marcus from FreeWheel, July 5, 2012 at 8:17 a.m.

    Doug, addressable TV advertising enables targeting that goes well beyond traditional TV ads or DRTV. When you get down to the level of household addressable TV ads (already available in the US), there is no issue with "target leakage" as you can even differentiate between current customers and prospects (for advertisers with direct-to-consumer relationships). Targeted TV advertising enables advertisers to move from messaging focused on the lowest common denominator aimed at appealing to broad audiences to crafting creative that positions the brands in a suitable context for differentiated target segments.

  6. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, July 5, 2012 at 6:04 p.m.

    The fundamental human problem is that your brand is positioned. It can't, in reality, be dramatically repositioned without diminishing the value - creating a situation where the total brand value is less than the sum of its parts. So hyper fragmenting the audience is a path to destruction. In reality, if this level of targeting increased power, we'd already see the result - in premium pricing for targeted web ads. Yet reality is that the cost per for web is far below the cost per everywhere else. The Internet businesses have had well over a decade to prove the value of hyper targets and it hasn't proven broadly valuable - with some significant and important exceptions. Btw, there are some great studies in the Journal of Advertising Research that look at fragmentation of audiences and reveal the ultimate weakness of fragmentation.

  7. Claudio Marcus from FreeWheel, July 6, 2012 at 7:39 a.m.

    Targeting your messaging does not require repositioning a brand. In fact, targeting ought reinforce the brand position in a way that provides stronger reinforcement for the key target segments. For example, Geico has multiple campaigns on air that aim to tell multiple, distinct narratives that highlight various aspects of the brand. Targeting ads simple means that key target segments are can be exposed to ads that are more likely to resonate with them. Even within the context of a single brand campaign theme, the ability to use different spots to call out relevant support points, product, offers and calls-to-action targeted to key consumer segments helps reinforce not detract from the overall campaign.

    As far as Doug's observation on pricing for targeted web ads, we must consider that targeting is just one aspect that drives pricing, with magnitude of reach as well as supply and demand being major drivers. I would suggest that share of total ad spend is a better way to think about the impact of targeting. And, over the past decade, the bulk of incremental ad dollars have gone to targeted advertising.

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