Study on smokers' brains may mark dawn of a new age in advertising
(April 25, 2012) Advertisers and public health officials may be able to access hidden wisdom in the brain to more effectively sell their products and promote health and safety, UCLA neuroscientists report in the first study to use brain data to predict how large populations will respond to advertisements.
Thirty smokers who were trying to quit watched television commercials from three advertising campaigns, which all ended by showing the phone number of the National Cancer Institute's smoking-cessation hotline. They were asked which commercials they thought would be most effective; they responded that advertising campaigns "A" and "B" would be the best and "C" would be the worst.
The UCLA researchers also consulted experts who work in the anti-smoking field and who have been involved in creating anti-smoking advertisements. These experts agreed that campaigns "A" and "B" were the best and "C" was the worst.
While the smokers watched the advertisements, they underwent functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) brain scans at UCLA's Ahmanson–Lovelace Brain Mapping Center, and the neuroscientists focused on part of the medial prefrontal cortex — located in the front of the brain, between the eyebrows — a region that they have found to be especially important in previous persuasion studies.
The researchers found that activity in the medial prefrontal cortex increased much more during advertising campaign "C" than it did during campaign "A," and somewhat more than it did during campaign "B."