Interview: developing better advertising using neuroscience (part 2)


The following is the second transcript of an interview between our own Nick Radley and Ross Webb of Mindway Media.  Nick was being interviewed about why he is a passionate believer in using neuroscience to help develop better communications.  A few grammatical errors have been corrected and occasionally Nick has added in square brackets areas that he didn’t get quite right!]



Can It Help Buying Intent?



Well, I think this is really important point, and strictly, no. What neuroscience can do is give the message that you have constructed the best chance of success. So, obviously, you put an awful amount of work into the strategy behind the brand and thinking about what messages are going to fire up which target audience the most. That work isn’t really tested by neuroscience but what is tested is whether your message is getting across effectively, are you telling it in the most powerful way and are you giving it the best chance of lodging in long term memory.

So, if you’ve got a rubbish product, you can’t use neuroscience to make people want it.

So, it’s not about improving buying intent per se, but it does have that effect if you are getting your message across better and in a more powerful and effective manner.  [In fact I underestimate this here. From Neuroinsight: There’s lots of published evidence that shows a correlation between Long Term Memory Encoding (LTME) and decision making/purchase intent.  What goes into memory is a much stronger predictor of purchase behaviour than conventional measures like day after recall or claimed intention to buy]



What about Message Analysis?



It will give you an idea of the power of the messages and how engaging they are and how likely they are to be locked in the long term memory.



What Stage Should We Be Using These?



This is a good question. This is the heart of why we think what we’re doing in Team Darwin is a bit different. We think you should use advice in learning from neuroscience from day 1. My experience, having run an agency for a long time as well as the being a planning director in one, is that research is often seen as kind of hurdle to overcome once you’ve decided on which idea you think is the best.

Now, of course there are a lot of great brands out there who use research very intelligently relatively early on. But, most often, that has happened once the agency has decided on its top 2 or 3 ideas. Those 3 ideas might go into research and that process of deciding which 3 of them is best often happens behind closed doors and is usually the decision of the creative director in that agency. And you know, there are all sorts of other issues at play there; what the agency wants to get out to the brief, which they think will do their profile the best, and which they think, you know, the client is most likely to buy.

We think though that that process should be opened up. The client should be present when all the ideas are on the table, or certainly a longer list than 3, and you should involve neuroscience at that stage to help identify any watch-outs, not to replace the research itself, but to appraise everyone of the likely issues and some areas where simple fixes can be applied.

Because my experience is that at the early stage of the creative development process, the creatives and the agencies are much more open. They want their ideas to live.

They’re happy to change them, or modify them in a way that gives them the chance of working.  In contrast, once they’ve invested the time and presented it to the client they don’t want to do tons more development and, in fact, they’d want to minimize that for obvious reasons.

And so, the research and the development becomes more shoe horned in. It becomes less part of the intrinsic idea. And we’ve seen that several times.

We say though, if you feed this learning and writing in at the beginning, when an idea is still very open conceptually and hasn’t been formed into, say, a script or a scamp yet, you can get some of that learning in a much more satisfactory and effective way.

So, we think you should use it right in the beginning, and when you do have a short list, use neuroscience to help you refine and select the best routes that you have. A recent example we had was we had four great print ads on the creative director’s desk. He would have chosen two, very cleverly and very wisely, with the best intention that he thought would work the best. We put those four ads into the neuroscience test and a different two came out as the most effective. They had better engagement and better intensity than the 2 we would have picked.



What are the other advantages?



For me, another thing at Team Darwin, we’re very opposed to is what we call the HIPPO principle, which stands for Highest Important Person’s Personal Opinion, which means, we’ve all been there, that you’re in a room with the chairman and the chairman likes that one.

He doesn’t want to talk about any other one, he likes that one.

And whether that one is the most effective, whether that one is going to work the best, is largely irrelevant to the conversation from that point going forward.

And the point is, there are HIPPOs in almost every environment.

So, within an agency, before the client even sees the campaign, the HIPPOs might be the creative director, and then maybe the CEO of the agency who has a different agenda.

And when it goes to the client, there are the marketing people, marketing director and then the board.

What we’re saying is, why don’t you open that process out, and by involving, in a very collaborative way, not just neuroscience, but researchers as well as planning directors, creative directors, and marketing directors, you could maybe get to the point where you’ll be discussing the most effective campaign in a less opinion-fuelled environment I think. And that’s what we want to avoid. We want clients to select and develop the best ideas they can that will give them the biggest bang for their buck and, with the best will in the world, HIPPOs don’t always allow that to happen.

So, by being in an environment where you can discuss the pros and cons of each ideas and ground it in, say, the neuroscience of why one would be more effective than another or why changing this ad that way will, in fact, be to its detriment, it will help you sometimes convince people to do the right thing.



Can you apply neuroscience for print, for radio, for online?



Absolutely you can. I mean, the truth is that it’s more likely to be used in things like TV because they’ve got bigger budgets and if you’re spending £5M on a media spend, you’re more likely to have the budget to investigate these areas, but it is applicable to everything as far as we can tell. And you know, as I mention, we’ve used it on a print campaign, and we’ve used it on TV and we feel you can use it on anything that is about how people interact with brands.

I think there is a lot of exploration in that area but I think the very basic level – online, TV, print of all descriptions, you can look at how your communications are affecting people.



Can you give us a campaign example?



We’re involved with a charity at the moment for cancer and we constructed a campaign which was pretty challenging.

I mean, I can’t go in details on it, specifically, it’s not run yet, but it is a pretty challenging campaign, as often charity ads can be.

And people at the charity, and if you like, their trustees, had some concrete and legitimate concerns about whether a campaign like this, was what they wanted and would it have the effect that would justify the means, if you take my meaning. So, we traditionally researched it and we researched amongst some very sensitive audiences, people who’d lost people to cancer, people who had cancer, people who knew people who had cancer. And like I said, we researched it, if you like, in the most traditional way but we also used neuroscience to look at it too.

And how that worked was, we gave our friends at Neuroinsight the campaign. They get a bunch of people into a room who then put these funny looking caps on that look like you are in a science fiction show, (take a look at their website if you’d want to see a picture of it) and they showed the ads and in real time their response to the ad is mapped.

Now, from our point of view, there were some key objectives for doing this. First, was there any gross negatives, did it pull people off, did it promote rejections of not just the campaign but the charity behind it? Clearly big concerns. So, the traditional research we did, said it was fine, there were some areas that were maybe sensitive and you’d want to watch how you treat them, but the neuroscience really allowed us to understand which bits of the campaign people were engaging with, and how intensely engaged they were with it, and which bits were mostly like to generate long term memory encoding.

But really importantly, and this is from the earlier example, we had between 4 and 6 executions of this route and to the untrained eye, they all looked pretty similar. They had the same headline, the had pictures of people’s faces, and they had roughly the same copy on them too.

And yet, two of them worked much better than the other two. And those two worked for reasons of better engagement, better emotional intensity, and it had to do with things like facial processing, how faces are processed by the inner brain, say for example, one in profile (whilst a great creative image, looked fab) didn’t engage people as much as a straight front on, two eyes to the camera shot.

Stuff like that really helps us chose the most effective and the most empathetic route and it also enables the client to gain confidence that what we were doing here was not detrimental to their brand.



In conclusion?



Yeah, I think, over all, I may have sounded critical of HIPPOs before, but it is a natural phenomena, I was a HIPPO myself. You know, I was a planning director before my current job and it’s people jobs to do make those decisions.

But my point is, you’ve got to be open to more information and more concrete evidence about how the work you’re doing is actually working. If you can involve that early and make decisions about effectiveness of one campaign over another from that point of view, early on, the better the work will end up being. So, embracing this stuff is really important and we are massive fans on it.



That was Nick Radley, the Co-Founder and Chief Strategist of Team Darwin.

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