The future of advertising

by Brian Kratkiewicz ([email protected]) 389 views 

Marketing experts from across the world gathered at the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) Digital Conference in Austin, Texas, recently to share views on the trends guiding and shaping the future of advertising and technology.

Though exposed to all the latest advertising technologies and trends, there were three topics that really stood out in terms of guiding advertising in the future: neuroscience, the impact of mobile on media behavior and the theory of “pre-suasion” in messaging.

• Neuroscience
The measurement of emotional responses to advertising through neuroscience was a major theme prevalent across numerous SXSW sessions. Studies conducted by the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) showed that adding neuroscience testing to traditional ad testing may help to predict the impact that ads will have on sales. Using neuroscience testing, marketers can map consumer brain activity second-by-second during their exposure to advertising in order to measure emotional responses to ads. This allows marketers to measure what people actually feel as opposed to what they think they are feeling.

While there will never be a perfect way to test and measure which advertising approach will generate the greatest results, this approach may help to enhance the impact of ads, and help to make them more memorable.

• The impact of mobile
Another hot topic at the conference was the impact that mobile devices are having on consumer behavior. According to eMarketer, 56% of digital media time is spent on mobile devices.

People are connected to their devices all day long – at the gym, in their cars, at work, at home. A recent ARF study shows that TV viewers may only be watching programming 35% of the time. The other 65% of the time, their heads are down, looking primarily at their mobile devices. How do you fight the consumer’s fascination with their devices?

One great suggestion at the conference was to use sound cues in TV commercials to bring viewer attention back to the screen. Advertisers like Intel and Farmers Insurance use audio cues to grab viewer attention or at least generate branding impact audibly if not visually.

• “Pre-Suasion”
While neuroscience and the impact of mobile were the most prevalent topics across the SXSW sessions, “Pre-suasion” may have been the most fascinating. While persuasion is what you put into your advertising messages to get people to say yes, “pre-suasion” is the process of arranging for people to agree with a message before they are fully exposed to it. Adding images to your advertising that focuses consumers’ attention on the most critical part of the message is pre-suasion.

An example of “pre-suasion” was reflected in the results of a study done for an online furniture retailer. The retailer sent half of the visitors to its website to a landing page where the background consisted of fluffy clouds. They sent the other half of visitors to a landing page where the background consisted of pennies. People who were exposed to the images of clouds were more likely to purchase more comfortable furniture. They were trained in advance to want comfort. Those people exposed to the images of pennies were more likely to purchase more inexpensive furniture. In each case, people were pre-suaded to either buy comfortable furniture or cheaper furniture through imagery.

When asked afterward if the images had an impact on their purchases, customers thought that the idea was ridiculous and that the images had no impact at all. The images helped to focus the internal preferences of customers to either comfort or price.

As the advertising landscape continues to evolve quickly, information, like that above, that can be gleaned from conferences like SXSW is invaluable in helping marketers stay on the cutting edge and get the best results for clients.
Editor’s note: Brian Kratkiewicz is senior vice president of media and innovation at CJRW, a communications firm in Little Rock and Northwest Arkansas. The opinions expressed are those of the author.