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Television Advertising Science

TV Networks Open Neuroscience Labs To Improve Their Shows and Ads (reuters.com) 109

An anonymous reader writes: NBCUniversal's recently-opened Orlando neuroscience lab is trying to develop methods of delivering advertisements related to the scene in the show preceding them, such as delivering a food advertisement directly after a scene which has been shown to make test-subjects hungry. Viacom is building a lab right now to take electroencephalagrams of viewers while they watch. "And ratings firm Nielsen Holdings, which just bought neuroscience firm Innerscope Research earlier this year, is adding facial coding and biometrics to its labs, which currently conduct eye tracking and perform EEGs." NBC doesn't trust what viewers say when asked for their opinion on shows. They want to use science to determine which scenes trigger an emotional response, whether the viewer acknowledges it or not.
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TV Networks Open Neuroscience Labs To Improve Their Shows and Ads

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  • >> NBC doesn't trust what viewers say when asked for their opinion on shows.

    They shouldn't trust people's expressed opinions. How many people have you heard say naive things like "I'm not influenced by advertising" or "I do my own research"? And yet, advertising works, particularly because advertisers know where prospects go to "research" and get their pitches in there.

    • They need to come up with adverts that are less annoying than poking myself in the eye with a darning needle
      • by houghi ( 78078 )

        |NO. They should not show any ads at all. On the one side you have people who do not want advertising. On the other side you have companies that want to have adversiting 100% of the time if not more.

        Saying that you agree with part of it is discussing the amount. For me that amount is 0. I do not want it on tv, on the streets, on my underwear. I do not want it.

        I understand that it excists. I understand that Ebola exists as well. That does not mean I can agree with 1% people dying from it instead of 10% (or w

        • |NO. They should not show any ads at all. On the one side you have people who do not want advertising. On the other side you have companies that want to have adversiting 100% of the time if not more.

          Saying that you agree with part of it is discussing the amount. For me that amount is 0. I do not want it on tv, on the streets, on my underwear. I do not want it.

          I understand that it excists. I understand that Ebola exists as well. That does not mean I can agree with 1% people dying from it instead of 10% (or whatever the numbers are). I want that number to be 0. I want the number of ads to be 0.

          Advertising is an inevitable part of consumer capitalism.

    • by kilfarsnar ( 561956 ) on Wednesday November 04, 2015 @11:41AM (#50863419)

      >> NBC doesn't trust what viewers say when asked for their opinion on shows.

      They shouldn't trust people's expressed opinions. How many people have you heard say naive things like "I'm not influenced by advertising" or "I do my own research"? And yet, advertising works, particularly because advertisers know where prospects go to "research" and get their pitches in there.

      This article should disabuse anyone of the notion that they are not influenced by advertising. They are studying brain physiology in order to sell you stuff! They are operating on a subconscious level that many people aren't even aware exists! We have little defense if our conscious mind doesn't even enter into the equation. And if you think these techniques are just used to make you want hamburgers, think again.

      Advertising and other forms of subconscious manipulation are used to sell you wars, government policies and political candidates. People think their opinions are their own, but often they have just been selected from a menu presented to them by the media.

      Yeah, advertising works. Millions if not billions of dollars have been spent to understand how you think, what motivates you, and how to influence that without your knowledge. Anyone who thinks they are not affected is foolish and ignorant.

      • Advertising works, but not necessarily the way they plan. One ad did a great job convincing me to buy a remedy for indigestion. The only problem is, they were trying to sell car insurance!

      • tl;dr: hamburgers

        >> NBC doesn't trust what viewers say when asked for their opinion on shows.

        They shouldn't trust people's expressed opinions. How many people have you heard say naive things like "I'm not influenced by advertising" or "I do my own research"? And yet, advertising works, particularly because advertisers know where prospects go to "research" and get their pitches in there.

        This article should disabuse anyone of the notion that they are not influenced by advertising. They are studying brain physiology in order to sell you stuff! They are operating on a subconscious level that many people aren't even aware exists! We have little defense if our conscious mind doesn't even enter into the equation. And if you think these techniques are just used to make you want hamburgers, think again.

        Advertising and other forms of subconscious manipulation are used to sell you wars, government policies and political candidates. People think their opinions are their own, but often they have just been selected from a menu presented to them by the media.

        Yeah, advertising works. Millions if not billions of dollars have been spent to understand how you think, what motivates you, and how to influence that without your knowledge. Anyone who thinks they are not affected is foolish and ignorant.

    • by sims 2 ( 994794 )

      I want to think that amazon/netflix/hulu/crunchyroll actually have a much better idea of what people actually watch. As they get the stats directly. Instead of a bunch of nelson's. Why is survivor still on? Its definitely not because people want to watch it.

      However there does seem to be a race to the bottom going on for tv programming If everything on is crap you just need the least crappy show to sell ads. So they don't try very hard anymore.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Response to individual scenes can vary depending on the entirety of the plot. Limiting it to measuring response to scenes will result in shows being filmed for pavlovian dogs, not for actual human beings.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      shows being filmed for pavlovian dogs, not for actual human beings.

      You say that like there's a difference.
      *audience laughter*

      • shows being filmed for pavlovian dogs, not for actual human beings.

        You say that like there's a difference. *audience laughter*

        +1, Insightful.

    • If they used this technology when The Sixth Sense came out, the promos would have shown the scene where Bruce Willis realized he was dead. I think that would have been the opposite of effective.

  • so whats easier (Score:3, Interesting)

    by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Wednesday November 04, 2015 @10:18AM (#50862747) Homepage
    telling a meaningful story with an engaging plot, complex dialogue and interesting characters? or pinching out another Avengers/Batman/Bond/Furious? studios have decided the easiest way to make money is to paint with a shotgun, so its no surprise we get cognitive neuroscience involved.

    The rules are already pretty simple: keep the dialogue at the 8th grade level and the characters simple. House is a meanie bo beanie, sheldon is a goofy nerd, and the team on NCIS follows such predictability they could be used as a canary to ensure a tv stations satellites were tracking properly. Combine your average sitcom with a healthy dose of product placement and well timed advertisements between painfully obvious and intentional cliffhangers and youve got yourself a riveting cinematic blockbuster thats sure to entertain some 300 pound navel-gazing white trash single mom for at least the 30 minutes it takes to chug a soda and finish a cold pizza.

    the devils in the details. You cant expect to gain 10-15% profit quarterly and assume a product anything less than C grade is going to come out of the effort. it means rehash concepts, repeat plotlines, and a whole lot of commercial time. It means squeezing out stinkers like minions and then skull-fucking parents into everything from online games to fast food and clothing tie-ins because you dont have time for ideas. Exploiting basic human urges is simply a more cost effective means to ensure people who already watch this shit, continue to watch it.
    • Totally agree with everything you just said.

      Exploiting basic human urges is simply a more cost effective means to ensure people who already watch this shit, continue to watch it.

      This doesn't apply only to TV and consumerism. Conscious manipulation of large populations goes at least as far back as our transition from hunter-gatherers to storers of food and, by extension, wealth. It may go back even farther. It's the old 'bread and circuses' concept. But at some point the people being manipulated catch on to the fact, and then revolution is likely. I keep wondering why we haven't had one already - perhaps people are now so brainwashed that

      • "...perhaps people are now so brainwashed that they will never wake up?"

        Yup. And beware if you get close to one, he can become hostile without notice if he believes you infringe his programmed belief system.
      • by Anonymous Coward
        > why we haven't had one already

        I don't have or watch tv. I have a comfortable life as do those around me. Food is cheap, most things that you can buy are relatively cheap, historically wise. Housing is cheap if you don't live in a major city. Even education is cheap when adjusted for wage premium.

        What do I have to gain by revolting?

        • > why we haven't had one already

          I don't have or watch tv. I have a comfortable life as do those around me. Food is cheap, most things that you can buy are relatively cheap, historically wise. Housing is cheap if you don't live in a major city. Even education is cheap when adjusted for wage premium.

          What do I have to gain by revolting?

          Nothing. The revolution is not imminent. Things would have to get a lot worse for that, and we should all hope things don't degenerate that far.

        • > why we haven't had one already

          I don't have or watch tv. I have a comfortable life as do those around me. Food is cheap, most things that you can buy are relatively cheap, historically wise. Housing is cheap if you don't live in a major city. Even education is cheap when adjusted for wage premium.

          What do I have to gain by revolting?

          And the vast majority of people in the Matrix were similarly content.

      • by wings ( 27310 )

        It's the old 'bread and circuses' concept. But at some point the people being manipulated catch on to the fact, and then revolution is likely. I keep wondering why we haven't had one already - perhaps people are now so brainwashed that they will never wake up?

        I think we've perfected the circuses part. Between the hundreds of TV channels, cellphones, and Internet, the circuses are essentially perpetual. When you get bored with one, you'll find a nearly endless supply available at the touch of a button.

    • thats sure to entertain some 300 pound navel-gazing white trash single mom for at least the 30 minutes it takes to chug a soda and finish a cold pizza

      Why would you ruin a perfectly valid critique with this kind of insulting, racist, classists nonsense?

      • thats sure to entertain some 300 pound navel-gazing white trash single mom for at least the 30 minutes it takes to chug a soda and finish a cold pizza

        Why would you ruin a perfectly valid critique with this kind of insulting, racist, classists nonsense?

        Yeah, how dare he talk about you mom on the internets.

    • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

      telling a meaningful story with an engaging plot, complex dialogue and interesting characters? or pinching out another Avengers/Batman/Bond/Furious? studios have decided the easiest way to make money is to paint with a shotgun, so its no surprise we get cognitive neuroscience involved.

      The rules are already pretty simple: keep the dialogue at the 8th grade level and the characters simple. House is a meanie bo beanie, sheldon is a goofy nerd, and the team on NCIS follows such predictability they could

  • by VAXcat ( 674775 ) on Wednesday November 04, 2015 @10:19AM (#50862751)
    Blipverts!
    • More blipverts for the people!

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

  • The best we can hope for is that this is just some snake-oil fad that the ad guys sold the networks on.

    If it actually works, it's just another step in the systematic exploitation of human cognitive limitations and bounded rationality. Exactly what wouldn't improve this situation. I hope the researchers are...suitably proud...of the good work they are doing there.
    • The best we can hope for is that this is just some snake-oil fad that the ad guys sold the networks on. If it actually works, it's just another step in the systematic exploitation of human cognitive limitations and bounded rationality. Exactly what wouldn't improve this situation. I hope the researchers are...suitably proud...of the good work they are doing there.

      I am acquainted with a woman who works in advertising and is fond of saying, "I made you buy that." They know what they're doing and are too blinded by greed to care.

  • This doesn't bode well for future screenplays. Once they figure out what works, they'll write the scripts to sell the products. We'll be nostalgic for the days of mere product placement.

    • That's the least of my concerns. If they figure out how to really make this work, the viewers will be effectively reduced to Pavlov's dogs [wikipedia.org].
    • This doesn't bode well for future screenplays. Once they figure out what works, they'll write the scripts to sell the products. We'll be nostalgic for the days of mere product placement.

      You say this like it's not happening already.

      http://herocomplex.latimes.com/movies/star-wars-was-born-a-long-time-ago-but-not-all-that-far-far-away-in-1972-filmmakers-george-lucas-and-gary-kurtz-wer/

    • by KGIII ( 973947 )

      WTF do you think they've been doing since the dawn of the medium? They're not writing them for you to be happy. They're writing them to sell you something, even if it's just to sell you a continued subscription to a premium channel. That you like it is just incidental. If they could force it on you and have similar effects then they would.

      This is not some altruistic thing where they write shows that people like. They write shows that people like to sell shit.

  • Jokes on you pal - I DVR all my shows and fast forward through the commercials. Sure you can pump in a ton of subliminal messaging, but those 30 second clips are never seen
    • by Anonymous Coward

      That's OK. You can wait for the next generation of it - when they customize scenes so you get the product placement which fits the emotions created in the previous scene. Already been done (Starter Wife,) just not adopted wide-scale yet.

    • I tend to do that, too.

      That said, sometimes something catches my eye when I fast forward and I get curious and go back and see. So that's an interesting angle to look at--how to make you stop fast-forwarding.

  • Uh-oh! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Wednesday November 04, 2015 @10:39AM (#50862899)
    I don't think they are going to like what they find.

    I can't be the only one repulsed by the present day ads.

    Especially during daytime - it's creeping to evenings now.

    Because women are leaky things that spew matter from every orifice, men are the opposite, they have to put thingys up their weiners so they can pee. Drugs that might make you go on a killing rampage.

    Vaginal mesh, mesothelioma, Call us so we can see who you can sue! Some wacky lady who is obsessed with pooping, and probiotics. J.G. Wentworth "It's my money and I need cash now!"

    Dancing millenials. Did I mention dancing millenials? Do we have to have dancing millenials break into a dance because their Totino's pizza rolls came out of the microwave? Or found a piece of furniture online?

    When they tortured the guy in A Clockwork Orange" they could have just used today's commercials.

  • by RogueWarrior65 ( 678876 ) on Wednesday November 04, 2015 @10:43AM (#50862937)

    Seriously, things are pretty bad when every other ad is for some obscure prescription drug. I mean really, how many people have non-24 to the point of justifying an expensive TV ad? And the ads are stupid, too. Show a bunch of people going about their daily lives set to music while the narrator spends 50 seconds telling you about all the possible side-effects. Dumb.

    • I once made a tongue in cheek remark that the best thing about election years was that they temporarily bumped off the stupid drug ads for the stupid political ads.

    • Television is not for everyone. Side-effects may include nausea, sleeplessness, fatigue, boredom, agitation, impulsive thoughts, hemorrhoids, weight-gain, apathy, loss of creativity, and a lack of meaningful connection with other human beings. These side-effects may worsen depending on content. Tell your doctor about any programs you may be watching, and whether you recently changed content-providers. Do not watch television if you have homework or any other important task to do that requires concentration.

  • We have ads everywhere these days, except in our dreams. [youtube.com]

    Fight for your bitcoins! [coinbrawl.com]

  • Law enforcement will love this stuff.

  • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
    People still watch tv?
  • Nielsen Holdings is also in negotiations to purchase neuroscience firm Voight and Kampff next year, and hopes to improve their ability to detect which programs and advertisements are being watched by human viewers and which are only being scanned by computers.

    "And now a word from our sponsors..."

    "Do you ever find yourself walking along in the desert when all of the sudden you look down and you see a tortoise crawling toward you? You reach down, you flip the tortoise over on it's back. The tortoise lays o

  • This is great news. I'd been concerned for some time that I want watching enough ads, and that those ads I did watch we're failing to translate into product purchases at a high enough rate.

    I'm really glad that they're putting serious resources, effort and scientific brainpower into improving my ad consumption. To those dedicated scientists devoting their research to this matter - I salute you.

  • Remove artificial legal barriers to streaming, and all the mineable viewer information you want becomes available by just observing what we click on and how long we stay with each show and each episode. We are starting to see interactive features in ads, which means that recognition of this is seeping through even the skulls of studio execs.

    As Yogi Berra said, you can observe a lot just by watching.

    • by KGIII ( 973947 )

      I wonder if he really said that. A lot of things are attributed to Yogi that he never actually said.

      "I said a lot of things I didn't say." - Yogi Berra

  • Do whatever you want to your commercials, I never see them anyway. Thanks TiVo!
  • When the subconscious is targeted, it's going to feel like manipulation. While not in favor of government regulations for things like this, it seems low-rent to mess with our heads... would imagine the targeting will be effective and us pawns will line up to eat sawdust more predictably. Joy. Win for humans Being. Bzzzzt.

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