Super Bowl Ads Meet Brain Scans


An article in the LA Times, Researchers Get a Super Handle on Ads That Work, describes how neuroscientists at UCLA used brain scans to see which Super Bowl ads affected viewers the most. The surprising winner was Michelob, whose funny “touch football” ad had the biggest measured effect.

The ads were evaluated by having the subject view them on goggles while inside an fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machine. fMRI machines allow researchers to measure brain activity at specific points in time.

Not surprisingly, the subject’s reported comments on each ad didn’t always match up with the brain scan. Potentially, that’s a major benefit of neuromarketing technology – getting beyond inaccurate self-reporting to see what’s really going on. What’s not known at this point, unfortunately, is how well ads that produce higher levels of brain activation will perform in the real world, i.e, cause viewers to buy a product, visit a website, etc.

It seems likely that in the near future, though, we’ll have a better understanding of what kind of brain activity is most likely to result in the desired response. At that point, it’s likely that an advertiser about to spend a few million bucks to produce and air a commercial might well choose to do a pre-game fMRI session or two. We could be seeing “brain scan optimized” ads by the next Super Bowl.

  1. Daria says

    I think it is great such attemps are being done. It gives us valuable knowledge about human’s brain and its reactions to advertising, however I do believe there is need to compile fMRI data with other traditional quantified data. I am very enthusiastic about neuromarketing but we need more integrated multi-source data before we draw any conclucions. “Brain scan optimized ads”…hmmm sounds like distant future, but as they say: future comes more immediate than you expect it. ;o)

  2. NeuroGuy says

    >>sounds like distant future

    Don’t worry, some ad agency will be pushing this even before the science is fully developed or proven. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by, Daria.

  3. Daria says

    I am sure you are right Neuroguy. It is often when ‘money talks’ instead of ‘common sense’ talks 🙂

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