This article was first published in the July edition of Media Pulse – Omnicom Media Group’s monthly highlights on relevant media insights, intelligence and trends. 

We all know that advertisers mine big data to target our interests and cement brand loyalty. But who could have predicted that brands would dig deeper—beyond big data and leap into brain imaging? Orwellian, perhaps, but no longer extraordinary.

An emerging technique called neuromarketing that uses brain scans to measure human response to promotional messages is gaining traction in Europe, suggesting that ads may soon become even more effective at getting us to pull out our wallets. But for companies looking to fine-tune their promos and boost sales, neuromarketing offers the prospect of a quantitative way to test the subconscious effectiveness of ads, jingles, and logos—before they commit to big spending on media placements.

Take one recent example: a study conducted by the UK CEO of Neuro-Insight, which used brain-imaging techniques to analyze reactions to political ads during the heated campaigns for UK elections. The study focused on the use of brain imaging techniques to explore the real-time neurological impact of election advertising by the two main political parties on voters. The study was combined with an exercise that tracked subconscious associations with each party’s logos, carried out before and after the films were viewed, in order to measure their impact. By attaching electrodes to voters’ heads and evaluating the electrical patterns of their brain waves, researchers were able to track the intensity of their visceral responses—anger, lust, revulsion and excitement. The result? Different campaign techniques registered different levels of impacts on the voters, which in turn offered insight on the overall effectiveness of each ad.

Essentially, all this brain data helps researchers unlock the mystery of consumer choice; that’s a boon for marketers wary of the sometimes-fickle results of focus groups and other field-testing. Go ahead and get brainstorming!