Fruitful Research: Science Boosts Cranberry Ads

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by: Roger Dooley

Employing cognitive science to creation of a new ad for cranberry juice may have been a key factor in the ad’s scoring in the top 10% of a recall test of over 8,500 ads.

The spot features two men, in the role of cranberry growers, standing knee-deep in a bog. The duo has been appearing in Ocean Spray ads since late 2005, but for this spot they are joined by a group of women who are exercising. That idea came from Lisa Haverty, who has a Ph.D. in cognitive science from Carnegie Mellon University. In earlier iterations, the women in the ad were having a party. Ms. Haverty, who works full-time for the Boston agency of Havas’s Arnold, where she occasionally walks around in a lab coat, argued that the exercise class would more quickly send the diet message. The party image, she believed, would only confuse viewers because they would spend too much time trying to figure out why the group is celebrating.

That wasn’t the only way Ms. Haverty, who studies the ways people perceive things, influenced the ad. She also decided that the main characters should wait a few seconds before mentioning the new diet product, which goes against the longtime golden rule in advertising that you should hit consumers with a product name as early as possible to make sure it sticks. Her reasoning: Because of additional action in the ad — the exercising — viewers would need a second to process the images. [From the Agencies Don Lab Coats to Reach Consumers by Suzanne Vranica, The Wall Street Journal.]

The WSJ article notes that interest is growing in neuromarketing techiques, though they also quote Allen Adamson, author of “BrandSimple” and a managing director at Landor Associates, as downplaying the concept: “Agencies can’t differentiate themselves. This is just about advertising agencies trying to fight off being commoditized.” On the other hand, they pointed out,

The Ocean Spray diet ad scored in the top 10% of 8,500 ads tested by Millward Brown, which measures whether consumers remember ads. The spot outperformed another version of the cranberry juice commercial that used a familiar ad-industry formula — a taste test.

We were pleased to see the article strike a realistic note, quoting Haverty as saying that her input is about trying to “slightly improve their success rates.” We have often tried to downplay fears that neuromarketing will somehow be used to create “super-ads” that manipulate consumers into drone-like behavior, or even that neuroscience is some kind of panacea for all marketing shortcomings. The perspective of the article was quite reasonable and accurate, in our opinion.

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