Your brain on creativity: neuro testing the Cannes Lions winners

By By Frank Chung | 16 July 2012
Unilever Lynx Excite 'Angels Will Fall' TVC by BBH London.

There is a long-held belief in the advertising industry that creativity and effectiveness go hand in hand – but how do you prove it?

Measuring the effectiveness of TV commercials is complex, as traditional research methods often struggle to uncover subconscious factors such as emotional response and long-term memory encoding.

In the latest issue of AdNews, we teamed up with market research company Neuro Insight to put eight of the recent Cannes Lions winners to the ultimate test – measuring viewers' brain activity while exposed to the ads in a natural environment.

Neuro Insight chief executive Professor Richard Silberstein explained: "There are no questions asked. The result is a measure of what is committed (encoded) into long-term memory – whether consumers can recount it verbally is completely irrelevant.

"For an ad to have any effect, it must be committed, or stored, to long-term memory. Importantly, though, nothing across an entire TV commercial is encoded to memory with the same strength or at the same rate.

"So it is essential that any advertisement has high levels of memory during the visual and verbal moments of branding. Message and call-to-action are important, too, but they must be strong."

Before you panic, here's the punchline: creativity works and is worth investing in. Follow the links below to see the winning ads alongside second-by-second graphs indicating consumers' brain activity. The sample size was 110 people, evenly split between men and women aged 18-54.

For a more detailed breakdown of the methodology and analysis of each winning ad, see the Cannes Wrap 2012 liftout in the 13 July 2012 edition of AdNews. Click here to subscribe for the introductory iPad offer.

* Based on testing of 2,500 TV commercials worldwide, Neuro Insight's target for 'Peak Memory' encoding for a TV ad is an indexed 0.70. The common range for most brain activity is 0.30 to 0.70.

* Memory Detail (red line) represents activity on the left side of the brain and captures how 'micro' details of an ad are being taken in. Memory Global (blue line) is what is occurring on the right side of the brain and represents how bigger-picture impressions are being received – branding, music and landscapes, for example.

Grand Prix, Creative Effectiveness
Unilever | Axe Excite 'Angels Will Fall' | BBH London

Gold Lion, Film
Procter & Gamble | Tide 'Best Job' | Wieden+Kennedy Portland

Bronze Lion, Film Craft
Volkswagen | Jetta 'Memories' | DDB Sydney

Gold Lion, Film
Lion | Hahn SuperDry 'Super In, Super Out' | Publicis Mojo Sydney

Gold Lion, Film | Grand Prix, Film Craft
Canal+ | TV 'Bear' | BETC Paris

Bronze Lion, Film
Volkswagen | Tiguan 'Cross Country' | DDB Sydney

Grand Prix, Film
Chipotle | Fast Food 'Back to the Start' | Creative Artists Agency

Silver Lion, Film Craft | Bronze Lion, Film Craft (x2)
Lion | Tooheys Extra Dry 'Nocturnal Migration' | BMF Sydney

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