The Prague Post, a popular English-language weekly in the Czech Republic, ran both an article, Picking Your Brain, and an opinion piece, On the brains (and ethics) of neuroplanning, on the topic of neuromarketing. The former covers the launch of a neuroscience-based media planning effort being launched by European media planning firm PHD Network.

With the help of consultants, including the pioneering and sometimes controversial brain research firm Neurosense, PHD is rolling out a new suite of media-planning tools in Prague, which includes a component called “neuroplanning.”

Traditional media planning deciding where to place ads on radio, television, Internet and other media has long been based on intuition, says Mark Holden, planning director at PHD UK and key member of the neuroplanning development team. Such planning makes use of “clever people coming up with intuitive guesses,” he says, who then “use data to corroborate their choices.” However, private studies by PHD have shown that the choices of media planners are often biased by personal preference. If the planner is a devotee of sitcom reruns, he’ll recommend television; if she wakes up every morning to a folded copy of the International Herald Tribune, it’s print.

To counteract this, PHD fastened itself to developments in functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and cognitive psychology.

The article does make some odd statements about seasonal Christmas advertisements being targeted “straight to the short term memory” – hardly an effective strategy in the context of what most psychologists would consider “short term.” But the article includes some good explanation of the neuromarketing concept, and discusses some of the limitations of neuromarketing in the Czech Republic:

The Prague office’s use of neuroplanning banks on the belief that the Czech and British experience media similarly. Neurosense’s research was limited to an undisclosed number of British subjects, and Calvert says the firm has not explicitly studied possible differences between nationalities. She expects them to be few.

The cost of repeating the study in the Czech Republic is prohibitive access to fMRI machines must be purchased from universities and hospitals at a premium rate.

The editorial piece examines neuromarketing from an ethical standpoint. Although it includes the mandatory adjective for all such pieces, “Orwellian,” the tone of the editorial isn’t overwhelmingly negative or alarmist. In fact, the stateement, “If Unilever and DaimlerChrysler are shelling out to put test consumers into a pod at a high-tech medical center, any serious global marketing maven had better do the same.” might be construed as bullish were it not for a hint of irony. The editorial ends by pointing out the potential financial benefits to hospitals and universities if marketers flock to rent their expensive fMRI facilities, though it notes that the donors who funded the costly hardware may look askance at using them to develop more effective advertising.

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