A new initiative from Mindshare is determined to upend widely accepted industry rules of the road for media and marketing. Its new NeuroLab team “will create new opportunities for brands around ad creative and storytelling to connect with consumers and elevate their work,” the company insists.

Launched in the New York office of Mindshare U.S., the global media agency network of WPP, the NeuroLab uses medical-grade EEG (electroencephalogram) and GSR (galvanic skin response) technology to measure second-by-second, non-conscious neurological responses to brand stories and media. The NeuroLab supplements the data from these neurological responses with pre-and-post Implicit Association Tasks (implicit bias testing), as well as quantitative survey responses.

“Long-held institutional knowledge is now on the chopping block," said Adam Gerhart, CEO, Mindshare U.S. "We invested in the NeuroLab and this myth-busting program because it's not just about staying on top of changes in media and technology, but actively pressure testing ideologies for our clients and the industry. And there was no better place to start than with a medium that has experienced such a renaissance: audio."

In addition to its initial research on audio storytelling, the NeuroLab will “interrogate” other industry myths throughout 2019 and 2020, including creative branding, attention spans, customization and reach versus frequency. “It's not just about rejecting the status quo, but doing so to raise the bar for clients and teams—industrywide provocation with purpose,” the company says.

After measuring neurological responses, the NeuroLab surveys participants to see how they “felt” about the ads they'd seen. Respondents said they preferred the same brand story told just visually 22% more versus just audibly. And yet non-conscious neurological responses told another story. “Neuro research found that while participants thought they wanted one thing, their subconscious feelings wanted something else,” Mindshare explains. “That shows how neuro can reveal what people don't actually know or understand about themselves.”

Arafel Buzan, Co-Lead, NeuroLab notes, "Sound and the human experience are intimately and neurologically linked. It's the first language we learn, and from infancy is processed faster and with greater emotional prioritization than any of our other senses.” In hand, he adds, “The longstanding rule in creative, that storytelling requires sight, sound and motion, has also insisted that sight is the most important part of that equation.” Obviously, this is being challenged. “So while over the years marketers have made the choices to buy visual-only mediums, the industry has largely devalued the potential of sound existing on its own for storytelling. Marketers haven't truly interrogated just how powerful sound itself can be.”

The NeuroLab, led by Buzan and Mindshare's James Kelly, found that: audio ads elicit much stronger emotions from consumers; and that these consumers are much more receptive to audio branding and calls-to-action.

The next phase of the Mindshare U.S. analysis will dive more deeply into this kind of data, focusing on specific brand nuances and categories across beauty, retail, travel and luxury. It will also further explore the relationship between neuro performance and measured performance of each tested ad.

This initial research examined 90 respondents between the ages of 18-54. Although all 90 came from the greater New York region, they were recruited to be nationally representative across household incomes, ethnicity and education levels as seen in the U.S. Census.