The next ad frontier: Brain scans, eye sensors from Nielsen

The next ad frontier: Brain scans, eye sensors from Nielsen

Nielsen lab to gauge consumer attention and brand engagement by measuring brainwaves.

This may sound like science fiction, but it isn’t. Market research firm Nielsen India has announced the launch of its first neuroscience lab in the country to gauge consumer attention and brand engagement by measuring brainwaves.

The first lab will be set up in Mumbai followed by Delhi.

The lab will measure brainwaves and track eye movements to provide a real-time picture of consumers’ subconscious reactions to brand messages. It will use two techniques to capture the reactions — electroencephalography (EEG) and eye-tracking sensors. The EEG method will use non-invasive caps that will measure brain activity while the eye-tracking sensors will study the movement of pupils.

While marketers will define the target group, Nielsen will conduct the research. The research involves individuals wearing special headgear held together by gels and wires and viewing videos or visuals in a closed room. The data captured in the headgear is then downloaded for analysis.


The research, according to Nielsen, will be useful across the marketing spectrum — from ads to aisles and from food to finance. Neuroscience can help in the areas of ad effectiveness, product design, in-store marketing, experiential marketing etc, said the market research company.

It already runs such labs in the UK, Germany, Russia, Brazil, Mexico, Columbia, Japan, the US and China.

Nielsen has already been providing neurological solutions in some measure to its clients in India and with the full-fledged lab plans to commence the exercise on a large scale. Joe Willke, president, Nielsen Neuro, said that neuroscience has penetrated fields such as economy, sociology and psychology. “Marketing communications is, in fact, the last bastion. If a television ad commercial is pre-tested and consumer reaction to it gauged before its final launch, it could help in optimising marketing spends by at least 5-10% and that’s a huge saving for companies alongside helping them tailor their communication for the intended purpose,” Willke said. “This kind of diagnosis is just not possible with traditional market research tools.”

“With these technologies, we can measure attention on a second-by-second basis,” Willke said, adding that big advertising and marketing spenders such as auto, financial services and telecom have already adopted neuroscience for market research.

Sanjay Tripathy, executive vice-president and head, marketing, product, digital & e-commerce, HDFC Life, said that as a marketer, he is excited about the possibilities offered by neuromarketing. Arguing that most purchase decisions are taken unconsciously and, hence, parameters such as behaviour, attention, cognition, emotion, perception, etc, are acquiring a new place in business-related matters and specifically in brand marketing, he said: “Consumer neuroscience, if executed with diligence, is the future of market research.”

Mediacom, a media agency owned by WPP, too, has a tool called Real World Street, which works on the same principle.

Even as the experiments in neuroscience marketing gain ground, marketers are treading the path cautiously. Santosh Desai, managing director and chief executive at Future Brands, said neuroscience is a bit ‘dodgy’. “There are ethical issues in this form of research since it bypasses the normal cognitive process and delves into the subconscious,” he said.

–  | FE