The De-Risking of Creative Bravery

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By Dave Lawrence, Planning Partner, Brave

The explosion of media access over the last decade has transformed the way in which we consume both entertainment and commercial content. As a result, we are exposed to over 3000 adverts a day and we receive five times more information than we did 30 years ago.

With such sensory overload, our brains are adapting to how they process information, reducing our attention spans and filtering out the audio-visual ‘white noise’. What’s more, we are turning increasingly to ad blockers to ease this burden, with industry sources predicting that 1 in 3 of us will be using such digital tools by 2017.

As such, it is more important yet harder than ever to create truly memorable advertising that genuinely cuts through. Put simply, we need to be more provocative and disruptive if we are to get noticed in a way that consumers will care about and do something in response.

Yet in parallel with the recognised necessity to be brave, there are a number of commercial factors in play that make brand owners inherently risk averse. Corporate short-termism is rife, obsessed with maintaining quarterly financial results in order not to spook the city. Creative and commercial bravery can be at odds with this corporate sensibility, resulting in the gradual dilution of creative ideas as they pass through the decision making process of companies.

The usual course of action amongst marketers to help ‘sell in’ creative work to senior management, is to resort to consumer research. Sadly, rather than helping the cause, traditional research often stymies the creative process, with respondents naturally gravitating to the familiar and resisting anything new and different. This can lead to the odd negative comment in focus groups, which even in isolation can unnerve viewing marketers.

The other fundamental issue with traditional research is that it struggles to measure consumer emotions. Even if people are aware of how they feel, they frequently find it difficult to articulate this when asked directly. This failing is particularly pertinent given the seminal IPA 2013 paper ‘The Long and Short of It’, which proved that emotional advertising is twice as effective as rational based advertising in delivering commercial results.

Born out of these frustrations and necessities, we turned to science for an alternative approach to measuring reactions to advertising. In so doing, we found a solution in the world of biometrics and after two years of development, The Bravery Index was created.

This pioneering new planning tool uses technology that has been extensively used and validated in academic research, combining three core bodily responses; eye tracking, facial coding and Galvanic Skin Response (GSR).

Using discrete fingertip sensors, GSR measures the micro fluctuations in your sweat glands. Whenever you are excited, scared, shocked, or experience any emotion, your sweat changes at a very micro level. This allows the tool to establish the intensity of emotion over the course of an advert’s exposure, without the need to ask respondents any direct questions. This is combined with facial coding, which records the specific type of emotion, whilst eye tracking monitors the actual triggers that prompt these reactions.

In isolation, these three elements are not particularly revolutionary (at least in academic circles), however the uniqueness comes from how the three measure are combined and interpreted, and in particular how a proprietary algorithm combines all of the data into a single index (from 1 to 100).

Importantly, this data is based on the objectively measured rather than the subjectively reported consumer response and it’s proving to be invaluable to both optimize creative work and help ‘de-risk’ the decision for brands.

The field of neuro-science and biometrics is being embraced by the market research industry and is being increasingly used by the likes of the BBC and Unilever to better understand our physiological response to creative stimuli. As it becomes more understood and applied, we feel that this science based objective approach could well be the catalyst that re-ignites another golden era of advertising. Which will be a welcome creative tonic for an ever-increasing conservative commercial world.