We ran different ad tests during the World Cup, including using biometric testing on 21 ads. The ad that ‘won’, in terms of greatest subconscious and conscious audience response, was the Ladbrokes’s advertisement, which is driven by verbal and visual humour. But what was it that resonated so well with the audience?
Engage both sides of the brain with humour
According to a recent study published in the journal ‘Cerebral Cortex’, visual humour engages parts of the brain responsible for vision, and verbal humour activates the language-processing areas. These big brain areas tend to be in different hemispheres of the brain (with some exceptions) – so an ad that is working both on a visual and linguistic level is engaging both hemispheres.
Engaging both sides to the brain in a positive way (we confirmed positivity via the subjective accounts viewer gave to the Ladbrokes ad) improves the ad’s efficiency in grabbing and holding viewers’ attention, and creating a lasting impression of the brand.
Match the audience’s mood
Advertising needs to resonate with the audience’s current mood. While it is very hard to predict this in general, it is much easier with audiences focused on a major event. For ads aired before and during a major sporting event, for example, the audience’s mood is likely to be social, enthusiastic, emotional, and so forth.
In our test, the ads that were projecting a relaxed state of mind with representations of peaceful lifestyle elements performed very poorly. They were not in line with the audience’s prevailing mood at that particular time and therefore triggered very little subconscious engagement and subjective liking.
Similarly, such events are not the right context for ads that need the viewer to try hard in order to ‘get’ the joke or decipher the puzzle. People geed up for a big social event, and very focused on that, don’t

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