Tuesday, July 28

Getting Closer: Disney Looks For Soft Spots


With more than $25 billion spent on advertising this year, most eyes are on New York as Walt Disney Company’s new research facility will unveil some early findings and suggest online ad formats to about 200 advertisers. The formats, according to The New York Times, represent layouts based on what our brains prefer, whether we click on the ads or not.

The emerging media and advertising research lab was launched in May 2008 under the direction of Prof. Duane Varan, an authority on the future of television and advertising. The lab was developed to better understand the emotional drivers of audience behavior and physiological reactions to advertising.

It will be interesting to learn how Disney data meshes with a report released by comScore last year. Its study, on behalf of Starcom and Tacoda, showed that average click rates on display ads in 2008 were less than 0.1 percent. Starcom research also suggested no correlation between display ad clicks and brand metrics, no connection between measured attitude towards a brand and the number of times an ad for that brand was clicked, and that optimizing for high click rates does not necessarily improve campaign performance.

These are some of the same reasons we've avoided some "click" measurement assignments, whereas compensation is based on clicks. All too often, consumers develop a composite of impressions over time and seek out paths to demand fulfillment that they are most comfortable with. For example, after months of being exposed to movie messages, many customers traveled to local retailers over online outlets or visited online outlets from a path different than a source link.

In The New York Times story, much of the Disney research seems to hinge on google-based eye tracking, stereoscopic camera-based eye tracking and heart rate monitoring. While the lab promises to deliver deeper findings in these areas, it would be even more interesting if the lab eventually compares such models to contextual events.

For instance, we already know that the Coca-Cola brand is strong enough to cause people to prefer it over other sodas, even when its label is placed on competing products. Thus, we'd have to conclude brand reputation may have a dramatic impact on how small of an ad or simplified of a message some brands might get away with over other brands.

Communication doesn't happen in a box. And the brain works in some very mysterious ways.

Sure, we can ask questions (as The New York Times does) whether preroll ads that play before video clips are more effective when paired with banner ads. But will we ever know if the outcomes are different depending on the brand? It's hard to say. Neuro persuasion is still one of the least understood areas in the communication field.

What we do know, however, is that the effectiveness of advertising, marketing, and communication is tied to thousands of variables, including the individual experiences of each person exposed to an advertisement. The science beyond the creative or connection (in the case of social media) is attempting to effectively touch more of a mass audience on a scale of one-to-one as possible.

For example, when customers of a resort began writing personal letters to the owner of the property in response to his direct mail letters, we knew the communication mix was right. At that point, where the coupons landed on the page seemed trivial. Whereas, prior to having the right mix, coupon placement seemed to matter a great deal. Weird, but that's how we're wired.

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