The Advertised Mind

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The Advertised Mind

by Erik du Plessis

Kogan Page, 232 pages, $45.00 (ISBN 0-7494-4366-9).

Groundbreaking Insights Into How Our Brains Respond to Advertising

Exploring the latest scientific discoveries in brain research and advertising effectiveness, advertising researcher Erik du Plessis explains how the human brain processes advertising, and encourages readers to find new ways to apply the latest advertising research. The insights he arrives at include the concept that emotion is critical to advertising because it is critical to all human thought, and it helps determine the depth of mental processing that takes place.

The Advertised Mind begins by explaining that there has been a major shift in what neurologists understand about how we pay attention. Instead of simply looking at “higher intelligence,” scientists are now looking at our most primitive and instinctive reactions. Du Plessis explains that the latest brain research indicates that there is a new paradigm that centers on the idea that emotion governs all our behavior, drives our unconscious reactions, and determines what becomes conscious. In other words, du Plessis writes, “Emotion feeds into, shapes and controls our conscious thought.”

When we pay attention to something, such as advertising, we remember it, and it has a permanent impact on the contents of our brain. “And what we have paid attention to and remembered in the past, we are more likely to pay attention to in the future,” du Plessis explains, “so attention and memory create a feedback system.” He writes that the first task of an advertisement is to be noticed so that it can be remembered. “Since emotion plays a key role in the directing of our attention,” he adds, “the task of the advertisement is to evoke emotion in us.”

Du Plessis points out that emotions can be broken down into either negative or positive ones. Since we are all programmed to look for pleasurable emotions and reject negative emotions, he writes that the emotions an advertisement generates in us must be positive ones so we “like the advertisement.”

Research and Science

After recounting the recent history of scientific research into the brain and the way it remembers, du Plessis describes the conclusions he has reached from the lessons taught by the most groundbreaking scientists. He suggests, “Emotion not only shapes our unconscious reactions to advertising; it also feeds into, shapes and controls our conscious thought about brands, products and services.”

The second task of advertising, du Plessis writes, “is to ensure that it is remembered, and this is intimately tied in with how often we see it.” It is not enough for an ad to be noticed and remembered, he explains, it must also “shape consumers’ buying behavior, and in order to ensure that it does so, we need to pay attention both to the connection between the advertisement and the brand, and to the buying process, and the role of memory within it.”

Ad-Liking and Confusion

The second half of The Advertised Mind focuses on how advertisements can be made that will not only attract attention, but will ensure that they are seen enough to be remembered and acted upon. According to research, the biggest danger for an advertisement is confusion. Advertisements that do not work either have trouble linking to the brand or create confusion. When there is confusion, du Plessis explains, viewers will just ignore the commercial. Confusion can be caused by too many scenes in an advertisement. Although high ad-liking is created by entertainment, empathy and relevant news, he writes, combining all three in a single commercial does not work because audiences get confused when entertainment and news are combined.

Ad-liking is as important in print advertising as it is in TV advertising, du Plessis points out. Research 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. One model suggests that ad-liking is caused by such things as humor, characters, aspirational situations, and news that is relevant to the reader. Du Plessis argues that ad-liking is the core element on which advertisers should focus.

The Advertised Mind also points to the importance of research done by Herbert Krugman in the 1970s. Krugman argued that recognition is an emotional task that uses the right hemisphere of the brain, and recall is a logical task that uses the left hemisphere of the brain. Since print advertising tends to be logical, and TV advertising tends to be emotional in its appeal, recognition is the correct method to use for television, and recall is the correct measure for print. In The Advertised Mind, du Plessis takes this and other research into the 21st century with additional neuroscience and modern studies. ~

Why We Like This Book

The Advertised Mind adds a solid backbone of new science and research to all we know about advertising and how it can be made more effective. By detailing the most important and current findings in the field, du Plessis presents a fascinating look at the human brain and the ways it can be influenced by advertising.

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