When the appliance of science is all in the script

Script: MRI scanner. Duration: 30 seconds Effects: Bustling coffee shop. Friendly, but slightly dim sounding female voice: “Hi Jane. I hear you’re going back to the UK. Holiday?” Female Irish voice that sounds suspiciously like it’s the one in virtually every UAE radio ad: “No. They think they’ve found something, and they have to check.”

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By  Tim Burrowes Published  June 4, 2006

When the appliance of science is all in the script|~||~||~|Script: MRI scanner. Duration: 30 seconds. Effects: Bustling coffee shop. Friendly, but slightly dim sounding female voice: “Hi Jane. I hear you’re going back to the UK. Holiday?” Female Irish voice that sounds suspiciously like it’s the one in virtually every UAE radio ad: “No. They think they’ve found something, and they have to check.” Male v/o: “Now you don’t need to leave the UAE for a scan. You can have it done at the American Hospital in Dubai.” When I first heard that advert, I thought it was just another dreadful, timid client, clichéd script effort. I now realise it was a satirical effort to ready us for when media agency PHD was ready to go public in the region with its neuroplanning offering. And while I may be mistaken about that, at least it offers hope for how the American Hospital can fill all that downtime on its scanner that its awful ads won’t fill. Actually, PHD’s neuroplanning isn’t quite as funky as it first sounds. The first impression is that every time an advertisement gets made, it gets played or shown to a consumer while their brain is being scanned, and depending on reaction gets tweaked accordingly. I happened to be around in the UK when PHD launched it on medialand over there. And I was just as bamboozled by the science bits then as well. In fact it’s slightly more straight forward. The agency has some data on how people’s brains react when shown advertising on different media. And from that you can draw up a score for what’s the best medium for effective consumer involvement. Factor in the relative media cost per thousand consumers, and Bob’s your uncle, or at least that’s the general idea anyway. I must admit that I didn’t initially buy it. It sounds like a gimmick. But then PHD’s London office showed me how it works in practice. The idea is that it may help you fine tune a media schedule, rather than anything much more significant. Whether neuroplanning will revolutionise this market though, I’m less certain. We’re talking about perhaps making a media schedule five or 10% more effective. Considering the virtually total lack of robust audience data here though, the more obvious way of making most media schedules more effective would be to introduce a proper TV currency. As it happens, we’ve seen a further attempt to introduce a media currency with publication of Synovate’s Pax survey, which looks at the habits of affluent consumers across the Middle East. But the problem is that with relatively few subscribers, there’s resistance to publishing too much of the data for free. However, for a currency to become a currency, it needs to be in common usage in the market. Media agencies and potential advertisers will naturally treat with scepticism data presented to them by the individual media owner subscribers such as BBC World. The data is probably correct, but their choice of what information they make available is bound to be selectively based on what makes them look the best. The result being that the survey is in danger of vanishing without trace. And while we’re talking about research and innovation, there’s a third interesting piece from MindShare. It examines consumer receptiveness to commercial messages and, unlike the PHD technology, the work is specific to the Middle East market. In themselves, the results offer no surprises. Consumers see TV as the most effective medium, for instance. The real challenge is to do genuine effectiveness research that doesn’t just test consumer perceptions of media effectiveness, but actual results. But that comes expensive and demands a level of data that just isn’t yet available in this market. Perhaps Jane had better head to the UK after all.||**||

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