From brains to advertisements: The Advertised Mind (Book Review)

On January 9, 2013
advertised_mindErik du Plessis is Chairman of Millward Brown (South Africa), a global company focused on brands, media and communications research. He is author of The Advertised Mind (2005), and he was Visiting Professor at the Copenhagen Business School teaching neuromarketing from 2007 to 2009.
The Advertised Mind was published in 2008 by Kogan Page and it is a 232-pages fact-based introduction to advertising research using insights from neuroscience. As an advertising researcher, Erik du Plessis is interested to explain how brain research can inform marketing specialists and researchers in order for them to develop effective advertising practices, the content of the book being foreseen by it’s subtitle: Groundbreaking Insights Into How Our Brains Respond To Advertising.
The book is accessible to anyone interested in neuromarketing and advertising, without having any background in neuroscience; it even explains some advertising related terms such as media planning or frequency and provides examples to illustrate the theories. It even touches subjects like artificial intelligence and neural networks
As Nigel Hollis (Executive Vice President and Chief Global Analyst at Millward Brown) states, most previous books have considered advertising as a process but given little attention to the processor of advertising: the human brain. The 22 chapters provide a fascinating look at the human brain from an advertiser point of view and offer a great review that brings together theories from social sciences and neurology, with applications to advertising that are insightful for those who design and develop ads.
"Emotion feeds into, shapes and controls our conscious thought."Until recently, advertisers did not have evidence or systems that could verify if their advertising will work, although their aim was to make their material to be remembered so that in some way this would influence the purchase decision. One chapter is focused on presenting the structure of the brain and to explain the functions of each area, and another one aims to make the reader understand the cognitive science that underlies how the brain works at a cellular level. The author also gives details on how stimuli are perceived and categorized in the brain, and how the brain controls its levels of arousal.
Erik du Plessis seems objective along the lines of the book, as he presents both pros and cons concerning the topics discussed. He even states that there is still a gap in understanding how the brain works, but at least we begin to fill it.
Erik du Plessis underlines the fact that emotion and attention are critical to advertising because they govern all our behavior and thoughts, helping researchers to determine the depth of processing that takes place during exposure to ads. So neuroplanning may be the key to the expected advertising response. Erik du Plessis redefines an emotion: The limbic system sends a warning signal to the body – preparing it for action and focusing attention – and then adds a ‘tag’ to the interpretation of what is perceived.
The author states that the main predictor of success of advertising is ‘ad-linking’. One model suggests that ‘ad-liking’ is caused by such things as humor, characters, aspirational situations and news that is relevant to the reader. Confusion seems to be the enemy of advertisers, as it makes people ignore commercials and although high ‘ad-liking’ is created by entertainment, empathy and relevant news, combining all three in a single commercial does not work because audiences get confused when entertainment and news are combined. Research presented in the book shows that a minimum of 2.75 seconds of attention are required for a print advertisement to have an impact on a viewer’s memory. The author emphasizes that ‘ad-liking’ is the core element on which advertisers should focus.
The book provides explanations for the research results from several theories of René Descartes, Hermann Ebbinghaus, Joseph LeDoux, Antonio Damasio, Sigmund Freud or Andrew Ehrenberg, and presents different perspectives such as brain hemispheric theories, learning, memory / forgetfulness and emotion theories, recognition and recall, brand linking, the somatic marker hypothesis and much more. Being a mix of neuroscience and advertising, the chapters also ways in which emotions can be used in account planning and creative strategies, what to do with an advertisement in the media when it has been created, the connection between advertisement memories and brand linkage, and how to adapt advertising media strategies over time.
The book ends with an Emotional Filter Model that comes with 6 changes to the standard communication-feedback model and with what marketing should learn from the emotional responses, shifting our focus to the most primitive and instinctive reactions.
The Advertised Mind provides a comprehensive and strong foundation for understanding how new science and research on the human brain can influence advertising and make it more effective.

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