< Your Brain on Commercials

Transcript

Friday, November 02, 2007

[MUSIC UP AND UNDER]
BROOKE GLADSTONE:
When your lips say no, do your brainwaves say yes? Enquiring advertisers want to know, so they're looking to add biological monitoring to their focus groups. One company that provides the probes, the California-based EmSense Corporation. Elissa Moses is its chief analytics officer.
ELISSA MOSES:
You go to a doctor and the doctor asks you some cognitive questions, like how are you feeling. You say, well I've got a headache, I'm a little dizzy. That's important information. But it's oftentimes the blood pressure test or the blood test that really brings the whole picture together. It's the missing piece to the diagnosis that we haven't been able to have before.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:
EmSense has streamlined the monitoring technology, giving it a leg up in the relatively new field of biological advertising. All it takes is a suped-up headband. That's what I wore when EmSense co-founders Tim Hong and Hans Lee tested my physical responses to a couple of ads.
WOMAN:
So you adjust the band with Velcro.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:
Would you help me with this, Tim?
TIM HONG:
Yeah. Just slip it on just like a headband. The key thing is that these two electrodes --
BROOKE GLADSTONE:
Mm-hmm.
TIM HONG:
-- need to be right on the forehead.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:
Like that.
TIM HONG:
Exactly.

BROOKE GLADSTONE:
And then --
TIM HONG:
Tighten it.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:
Tighten it up. Okay. So with the two electrodes, and there's a sensor in the front and there's a clip on my ear, you'll be able to measure, Tim --
TIM HONG:
Yeah. So what we're measuring is brainwaves, heart activity, blinking, breathing motion. We're combining that into a model of how people respond to media.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:
And with that, I was set up to reveal my deepest innermost response to a Lysol commercial.
[CLIP]:
WOMAN:
Fact: Millions of germs thrive on your kitchen surfaces. But if you're cleaning them with an overused sponge, you might as well be doing this.
[END OF CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE:
As I watched, Tim and Hans monitored the peaks and valleys of my emotions in the form of a wavy blue line on a laptop. Comparing my response with a database of others, they figured what my body liked and didn't like about the commercial.
[CLIP]
WOMAN:
Life demands Lysol. That's a fact.
[END OF CLIP]
BROOKE GLADSTONE:
Okay. That was gross. She was cleaning a counter with a piece of chicken. And -- That's what I thought about it. Now let's see what I felt about it.
TIM HONG:
Yeah. And [LAUGHS], and there's quite a strong negative response to the chicken showing up on the screen.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:
When it really drops below the scale, what's happening then?
TIM HONG:
Let's play through this.
[COMMERCIAL PLAYING]
BROOKE GLADSTONE:
All right. So now it's dropping, dropping, dropping to nothing. Okay. That's the -- oh, the bugs or whatever those things are. That was revolting.
TIM HONG:
That entire portion --
BROOKE GLADSTONE:
Obviously, I didn't enjoy the commercial. But sometimes ads aren't meant to be enjoyed, in fact, quite the opposite. Tim Hong.
TIM HONG:
Some of the most effect advertising uses negative emotion to really make people think about their lives and the problems they have. There's great examples from Tide where there's a lot of negative emotion around stains and all the problems of life, and Tide comes in to be the hero.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:
Tim says that's why the ads for the job site CareerBuilder are so effective.
[SOUND OF MUSIC AND MONKEY UP AND UNDER]
MAN:
Yes, yes. Just thought you might want to know, sales aren't up. They're down.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:
They strike at the heart of something many of us grapple with --
[MONKEY SOUNDS]
-- job anxiety, working with monkeys, you know. Anyway, the ad worked on me pretty much the way it works on everybody.
MAN:
Want a new job? We've got the most. CareerBuilder.com.
[HARP ARPEGGIO]
A better job awaits.
[END OF CLIP]
TIM HONG:
Let's bring up your response. And we could see that there's available large spikes. There's actually a lot of positive emotion in it, but also a lot of negative emotions during these job pain moments. There's one right over here, where his boss tells him to, to dance. And you can see that —-
[CLIP]:
MAN:
Want a new job? We've got the most.
[END OF CLIP]
TIM HONG:
That is a very typical response. I think what's really powerful about CareerBuilder is that it does actually create that need of wanting a new job, that negative emotion -- I remember what my Monday was like, and it was -— And that's what they're able to do is create that negative and positive emotion, but also leave it on a positive note.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:
We like it, we hate it, a little, a lot, changing from moment to moment. Our bodies don't lie. I asked EmSense's Elissa Moses if she considered how the technology, as intimate as it is, might be abused. She didn't buy it.
ELISSA MOSES:
There's nothing wrong with trying to persuade people in a free economy, whether you're trying to persuade them to buy something, persuade them to buy your ideology, to vote for you. You lay your argument out on the table. All we can do is help people be as effective as they possibly can in what they're communicating. But at the end of the day, if you're selling something that people don't want, if you don't have a benefit that's compelling or an image that people want to identify with, no sale.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:
But consider how EmSense technology could be applied. For instance, it could be used to test and train soldiers. In fact, it's been reported that the Army's been in touch with EmSense, although no one from EmSense would comment on that.

And, of course, we are in the midst of a presidential campaign, and I can't imagine any group of people more interested in how their message makes the American heart pound than the candidates. EmSense has been testing the headband during presidential debates for their own research and development -- for now.