2022 needs to be the year of leadership - here’s what to expect

Peter Pynta
By Peter Pynta | 24 January 2022

Neuro-Insight’s CEO Peter Pynta looks at the developing trends he’s seeing in marcomms and how that will change over the next 12 months

Power is gained in multiple ways. Some assume it, others aim to take it, and those who think creatively appreciate that it can be earned. From our perspective in neuroscience, the last of those three is where a brand is able to position itself and can deliver the most efficient behaviour changes in their target audience.

I’ll outline three areas where I feel will require greater leadership from those in our industry.

Corporate social licence to operate
Globally over the last five years, the number of B Corps has tripled. In 2020, there was a 23% increase alone.

Consumers are increasingly looking to buy from companies that they align with their values. In fact a recent survey found that 83% of Gen Z workers consider purpose when deciding where to work.

And corporate communications have a greater focus on targeting social responsible leadership. Mike & Annie Cannon-

Brookes have come out and promised $1.5 Billion towards limiting global warming by 1.5 degrees. The idea of purpose and taking a stand may not be new in the marketing space, but other environmental factors mean that the issue has more impact than ever before for those that get it right.

Leadership - both political and corporate - is never more important than while in a crisis, and the last 18 months have left a permanent transition mentality for most businesses. Whether that’s in our industry, or any other.

In fact, the biggest vacuum which has been left has come from absence of real leadership at the highest levels. The approach from government has been distinctly reactionary and slow to changes in policy and mindset. And this ‘gridlock’ will continue into next year, as most are canvassing the court of public opinion for short-term ideas of vote winning policies to fit neatly within the current election cycle.

You’ll have the seen that many more businesses have been creatively encouraging their customers, and Australians in general, to get vaccinated. While the government has flip flopped on the issue of vaccination rates being a race, brands have been rolling up their marketing sleeves to inject some much needed media spend on the issue. Here again, we’ve seen corporate Australia to be far more proactive and single-minded than most governments.

This position of authority is not without its risks. Should a brand run a single campaign on an issue and not integrate that value into the way it does business, it will be called out. Any social cause a brand supports must be done authentically and with previously earned social licence; an ad campaign is not enough for this type of approach. We’ve seen that when a brand gets it right it can connect deeply with the emotions of consumers. The one theme we’ve seen routinely this year in communications is that the moment of truth eg. Volvo’s melting icebergs crashing into the sea, driving a pronounced peak in Emotional Intensity with consumers. These moments are extremely authentic and powerful!

Evolving media metrics
We’ve all known the limitations of relying on volume metrics for advertising campaigns. Sure, while 3 million people may have had a chance to see your ad, honestly how many took the time to consider, or even view it in the first place?
The demand from clients is rightly heating up, which is why we’ve seen a lot of investment in greater efforts to capture the true value of an advert.

The out-of-home industry undertook an industry changing research project in 2019. And from January next year, the information media planners will have access to will dramatically change, as the Neuro Impact Factor will be implementable across every single outdoor site in the country. Two years working together with the OMA and its members, neuroscience has been able to assign a value metric on the effectiveness of a given campaign which can be implemented at the planning stage of a campaign.

Will it guarantee outcomes? Well measurement is not a simple task. And creative has a strong role to play. But from the years of research we’ve found evidence that when you commit something to long-term memory (in essence, the Neuro Impact Factor), it has an 86 per cent correlation with real-world sales. Thinkbox UK’s Payback series provides additional independent validation of the link between real-world sales and our neuro metrics. The Neuro Impact Factor will become the routine way to evaluate and buy media in the OOH space.

Elsewhere we’ve seen developments in attention. Many national and even international businesses have been backing attention-based metrics. Which is great that there’s so much demand from clients to challenge the status quo. I expect this trend to mature over the next 12 months, as we see what investors are able to glean from the projects into the field.

And yes, while it’s true, you will need to see an advert before it can be committed to long-term memory, you don’t need to look directly at it. Peripheral vision allows a significant degree of cognitive processing. The most fascinating findings come from campaigns that benefit from cross-channel priming - where we routinely find higher Memory Encoding (approx +15%) with lower levels of visual attention. Neuroscience found that the brain reacted to the stimulus of an OOH ad within a split second and could store that information in long-term memory. It was defined as the power of a glance.

Attention may be the new buzzword, however the last two decades of research in the neuroscience industry has found that it’s only explains about 15 per cent of what makes a person likely to store in memory; creative, context and priming all help explain the wider 85 per cent of the picture.

Context is King & Currency!
Deliver the right message, at the right time to an appropriate customer and you’ve got yourself a winning marketing formula. Which is simple to appreciate, but in reality there are many other invisible environmental factors at play that affect the effectiveness of your ad.

Whilst we’ve heard a lot lately about privacy, crumbling cookies and the renaissance of context, the business case for context will be a real focus in ‘22 and beyond. Receptivity and ‘real’ effectiveness will be centre stage! A recent project with IAS found that matching messages to media contextually has a significant payback. A good example of this is the finding that the effectiveness increases by anywhere from 25-40% when messages are congruent to a surrounding context.

Effectiveness in this project was measured by looking directly at brain activity - long term memory encoding - as messages were exposed during natural online browsing behaviour. This is the type evidence that will propel advertisers and agencies to routinely apply contextual criteria to media buys.

We’ve recently discovered a great deal more on how media context works - adding weight to a whole new media language - again, beyond TRAPS, R&F, viewability, CTR etc etc… When a message is matched to its surrounding environment, it can increase effectiveness (Long Term Memory Encoding) by up to 40%. That’s serious payback….and worth all the effort to engineer the alignment in the first place!

This new media language should also become a trading currency. If this happens then advertisers will have a dramatically more meaningful way of planning and buying media. Ideally the same techniques can be applied to the creative execution to ensure the fit between media and message. The emergence of better standards of media governance from outside and inside the industry will demand more accountability and transparency on media budgets. To deliver on that increasing desire from regulators and clients, I expect to see more rigour applied for campaigns which can objectively quantify the results; ideally standardising across media and creative using the same methodology. Clients have always needed to be able to demonstrate the fit and effectiveness of their campaigns and now technology is giving more options to better answer those questions.

We now see that as an ad walks through the doorway to memory, a rich assortment of media attributes simultaneously join the message….helping the brain to store those brand memories in the most relevant way. The media attributes that link with the ad are what we refer to as ‘shared contextual equity’. This is exactly how the surrounding media environment helps to shape the meaning of an ad at the moment of exposure. Not all impressions leave the same impression.

A fascinating parallel exists in medical science as well. Improvements in the effectiveness of pharmaceuticals is being driven by more targeted application of drugs and treatments that are tuned to patients’ individual characteristics. The idea of Precision Medicine seeks to customise the drug to reflect the environment in which it’s consumed. It’s recognised as one of the Top 10 Trends in Pharma Industry Innovations of 2021. We see this being eminently achievable in the media and communications industry as well - if you can tune your medicine to its environment then it will become more potent.

Likewise if we can get the right fit between message and medium I suspect the same advancements can be expected in our industry.

We will see this part of the media ecosystem becoming far more prevalent in ‘22 and beyond. It will take on renewed importance in the advertising economy of the future.

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