Researchers at the HSE Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience have discovered that analysing the electrical activity in the brains of a small group of people and studying their visual attention makes it possible to predict the impact of an online advertising campaign on a much larger group of 300,000 consumers. The paper has been published in Brain Sciences.
The research was financed by a megagrant from the Russian government as part of the 'Science and Universities' National Project.
In today's information-rich online environment, capturing the attention of potential customers is essential for the success of any marketing campaign. As advertising costs continue to rise, marketers require precise assessments of campaign efficacy to avoid squandering funds. However, conventional methods such as consumer surveys have significant limitations, as people often provide inaccurate or incomplete information about their preferences either intentionally or unintentionally. In such a scenario, neuroscience can help by enabling direct evaluation of the human brain's response to advertising. Nevertheless, even though this field of science has made significant progress in recent years, the amount of research is still limited.
In their new study, researchers of the HSE Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience predicted the consumer behaviour of internet users during an advertising campaign. In the experiment, 25 participants were presented with 10 banners and their reactions were analysed using two methods: electroencephalography (EEG) and eye tracking to identify which items captured their visual attention.
The banners were provided by a large food retailer partnered with the study. The banners were used in the brand's actual digital marketing campaign.
Electroencephalography was applied to record the electrical activity data of the participants' brains. Prior research utilising EEG has demonstrated that beta band frequency can be a reliable marker of active visual attention and action planning. Moreover, several studies have linked beta oscillations with brain regions involved in reward processing, such as the orbitofrontal cortex. Other studies indicate that alpha oscillations tend to desynchronise and diminish when participants shift their attention towards a new stimulus or view a video with frequent scene changes.
Using insights from previous studies, the researchers computed the attentional engagement index (beta/alpha ratio), which can act as a predictor of consumer behaviour during an advertising campaign. The researchers subsequently compared their findings with the actual behaviour of 291,301 consumers who participated in a marketing campaign operated by the study's retail partner and confirmed the accuracy of their predictions.
Our study indicates that the attentional engagement indexes obtained in the laboratory are correlated with the behaviour of an external group of internet users comprising several hundred thousand individuals. Marketers today are already using insights from neuroscientists to accurately predict the potential effectiveness of upcoming advertising campaigns.
Co-author of the paper, visiting lecturer at the HSE School of Psychology