A Neuromarketing Experiment in the Effects of TV Advertising

A neuromarketing experiment, conducted in Spain, demonstrated that there are specific factors that make a person pay more attention and experience greater intensity in their emotions when faced with certain advertisements.
A Neuromarketing Experiment in the Effects of TV Advertising

Last update: 28 April, 2022

In 2014, a neuromarketing experiment was conducted in Spain that showed how advertising works on consumers. Advertising is a complex form of communication in which psychological knowledge is applied intensively. It mainly seeks to influence three areas: attention, emotion, and memory.

The neuromarketing experiment was conducted at the University of Valladolid. It was directed by Dr. Alejandro Tapia, a marketing expert, and Elena Martín, a communications researcher. The central purpose was to assess how different factors affected viewers’ emotions and attention.

To conduct the experiment, a group of 30 participants, of both sexes, aged between 18 and 22 years, were recruited. Each of them was fitted with a measuring instrument. This was a device fitted to the index and middle fingers of the left hand. It detected electrodermal activity.

Make your customer the hero of your story.”

-Ann Handley-

Brain made of colored blocks to represent the relationship between education and psychology

Measurement in the experiment

The device installed on each of the participants was in the form of a bracelet and recorded electrodermal activity. It sent three types of signals. These were tonic activity, phasic activity, and non-specific spontaneous signals. Let’s take a look at each type of signal:

  • Tonic or EDL activity. It measured the attention processes. High values implied increased levels of attention and, thus, more willingness in the participants to receive and process the information provided.
  • Phasic activity or EDR. It measured emotions. Higher values indicated a greater intensity of emotion. However, while the device detected emotion, it didn’t specify which emotion.
  • Spontaneous, non-specific signal. It measured the detected psychophysiological signals. Nevertheless, it couldn’t identify the trigger and only indicated the degree of activation of a participant. This measurement was only taken into account in order to subtract it from the other measurements.

Research hypotheses

The neuromarketing experiment aimed to test three main hypotheses. The first was that the type of advertisement used determined a greater or lesser level of attention and emotion in the participants. Therefore, to prove this hypothesis, certain advertisements needed to show that there were higher values in these aspects, simultaneously.

The second hypothesis was that the more familiar a message felt, the greater the attention and emotion that was demonstrated toward it. This aspect included language. For instance, if the person knew the language well in which the adverts were made, the more attentive they’d be and the greater emotion the advert would arouse in them.

Finally, the third hypothesis suggested that a change in the sound register should produce alterations in terms of attention and emotion within the participants. Therefore, raising or lowering the volume would translate into changes in the values studied.

Man watching an ad on tv

Results and conclusions

Participants were presented with a group of 20 commercials in a continuous sequence. The presentation lasted a total of 13 minutes and 51 seconds.

Seven of the ads had never been broadcast in Spain before and four of them were in English. Six of the advertisements had basically musical content, seven were humorous, three were motivational, three were cinematographic, and one was dramatic. One of the ads had no voice-over.

Attention was found to increase significantly in advertisements with a strong musical and comedic component. In addition, it was clear that surprises, expressed by sudden changes in image or audio, generated spikes in attention. Loud sounds and familiar songs increased the intensity of both emotion and attention.

Scenes of sadness, depression, or routine had the opposite effect. In other words, attention and emotion decreased. Motivational and dramatic ads generated boredom and reduced attention. Basically, in all cases, emotion and attention went hand in hand.

Generally, the participants were stimulated more by ads in Spanish with comedic content that had already been broadcast in Spain. In fact, the participants’ familiarity with the content was decisive. Furthermore, the unexpected sounds caused an extremely strong effect on the participants. In all the above, the research hypotheses were corroborated.

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  • Vasquez-Patiño, L. F., & Rueda-Barrios, G. E. (2019). El neuromarketing como estrategia de persuasión del consumidor: evolución teórica. Revista ESPACIOS, 40(01).