Can neuroscience be the saviour magazines are looking for?

Neuroscience can throw light on changing consumer behaviour, magazine readership patterns & effectiveness of advertising through this media

e4m by Priyanka Nair
Published: Feb 18, 2013 8:01 PM  | 4 min read
Can neuroscience be the saviour magazines are looking for?

Experts globally believe that this is an exciting time to be working in the world of media, particularly in magazines and digital media. This is mainly because of emergence of newer communication channels. Market developments are moving fast too and publishers need to move keep up the pace to learn how to profitably migrate editorial and advertising content to digital forms.

In this process, researchers also need to keenly look at the changing consumer behaviour and understand how this change is making a difference in readership patterns and effectiveness of advertising through a medium such as magazine.

FIPP, the worldwide magazine media association, understood the need of recognising research done in the media world and started the ‘FIPP Research Awards’ in 2010. The objective is to publicly acknowledge outstanding research, to spread knowledge about successful studies, and to stimulate ideas for further projects.

One of the impressive studies that FIPP has recognised from the magazine world is ‘The Media Brain’ study by Sanoma Media, The Netherlands, in 2011. The study won an award under the best innovation in magazine research.

Claims of magazine engagement and the influence on adverting effectiveness are often made and have been heavily studied in the past, using traditional research methods such as questionnaires and surveys. These claims are, for example, consumers trust magazine advertising, magazine experiences create better connections with consumers or magazines provide a positive advertising experience.

However, Sanoma Media used the technique of functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to image the structure or function of the brain. It is a relatively new discipline within neuroscience. fMRI is a type of specialised MRI scan. It measures the change in blood flow related to neural activity in the brain. It is one of the most recently developed forms of neuro imaging.

The study was done in collaboration with the cognitive neuroscience group of the University of Amsterdam. Using a fMRI Philips Achieva 3T scanner, this study focussed on the activation of networks in the brain while participants watch different images on a monitor. For this study, 36 people, all women, participated. Subscription data and a small questionnaire were used to select the participants.

With the use of different mappers, brain activity was categorised in four dimensions: positive desire, visual processing, trust and attention. Mappers are a sequence of unique brain activity patterns that indicate specific emotions. To define these mappers for each individual respondent, a series of photos was shown ranging from images depicting very negative situations to very positive emotions.

Once these patterns were registered and it could be known what the mappers of the respondent look like, magazine covers and magazine ads were shown in random sequence. Different magazines were shown, titles that the respondent favoured and titles that the reader did not particularly favour. Also, a video of television content interrupted by a 30 second commercial was shown. Different programmes and different commercials were shown in random order.

As per the finding of the study, in advertising in magazines, one page full colour ads are more successful than a 30-second television commercial. Readers respond more positively to ads in their favourite magazine. When magazine readers are engaged, perception and processing of magazine advertising is significantly higher on all relevant dimensions measured in this study: positive desire, visual processing, trust, attention.

Positive desire refers to what marketers would call purchase intention. Visual processing refers to probability that information is stored and remembered. Trust refers to the probability that a person feels safe and secure. Attention refers to activation of the brain, does it catch our interest. The better the fit between the magazine and the magazine ad, the more positive is the reader’s response. Therefore, pre testing makes sense. The perception of trust of the ads shown in the study is strongly influenced by the perceptions of trust of the specific magazine title, the so called halo effect. Advertising in magazines is being perceived more positive and therefore, more effective than advertising on television.

When it comes to the Indian magazine scenario, not many brands have invested in research. It is now time for Indian publishing brands to start gearing up and gather research that works best for them, which will help them in convincing brands to retain their interest in advertising with them or else tough times will soon be seen.

The study was presented, at the Seventh Annual Indian Magazine Congress, by Chris Llewellyn, President, FIPP (Presenter and Moderator) and Ingrid van der Werf, Sanoma Media, Netherlands.

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