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Super Bowl ad champ: Sexpot or pizza?

Advertisers have known for years that consumers remember only about one third to one half of the commercials they watch. Even market research studies and focus groups have failed to answer a key question: Why? The holy grail of advertisers is to find that sweet spot: The moment when a commercial connects with viewers and persuades them to make decision to purchase a product.

Until now, no one could crack the code.

University of California at Los Angeles researchers Dr. Marco Iacoboni and Dr. Joshua Freedman (co-founder of FKF Applied Research, a marketing research firm) think they have found the answer. Working with FKF Applied Research, the doctors conducted cutting-edge market research at the UCLA Brain Mapping Center. With a Functional MRI (fMRI), the doctors took images of brain responses from eight volunteers as they watched all of last night’s Super Bowl ads. The group included men and women.

This kind of technology grew out of a fundamental failure of an old standby: the focus group. No one could figure out why people would report feeling one way to market researchers and then exhibit buying behavior that was counter to their opinions, or at least their reported opinions. With fMRI, it is possible to look at unfiltered brain responses, to measure how ads elicit emotions, induce empathy, and inspire liking and wanting.

So, to put it bluntly: Who really won the Super Bowl? Watch the video clip above to find out how the volunteers’ brains responded to Jessica Simpson and to a cheesy pie in Pizza Hut’s Super Bowl ad.

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