Millward Brown India study: Ads that do well in the North don't work as well in the West

By Surina Sayal , afaqs!, Mumbai | In Advertising | July 07, 2010
At a recent gathering, the research firm shared insights on ad transference across regions, as well as new technological tools that will aid ad development

Research agency, Millward Brown is bringing several new tools to its Indian clients, which will help measure the effectiveness of ads and people's responses to them. At a small gathering in Mumbai yesterday, the research agency discussed ad transference across regions, as well as tools such as eye-tracking and brainwave measurement.

The team explained that eye-tracking helps to note where a person's visual attention is centred. Tracking eye movements indicates the focus of visual attention with more detail and accuracy than self-reported answers. It measures what people are looking at; but cannot answer why their visual attention is drawn to a specific object, which would need a more qualitative study.

& #BANNER1 & #Eye-tracking provides realistic evidence of what people are likely to look at, which makes it a powerful aid in evaluating advertising creative.

Andrew Jerina, account director at Millward Brown, spoke about testing the eye-tracking tool on a set of people, who were made to watch Skoda Fabia's 'Car Bakers' ad. Red dots pointed out where people's attention was drawn in the ad (See pictures).

The study found the ad to be powerfully branded to 'Skoda', but relatively weakly branded to 'Fabia'. The latter was mentioned only at the end of the ad, that too amongst other visuals. Thus, visual attention was dispersed.

Key eye-tracking applications, therefore, include in-store applications, logo and pack designs, concept testing and advertising development research. Jerina shared that in India, eye-tracking had already been used in more than 30 projects for TV, Web, posters, print and packaging.

Graham Page, executive vice-president, Millward Brown Neuroscience Practice discussed another tool, brainwave measurement. This is a difficult area for marketers to navigate, both because of the complexity of the process and the wide variety of systems available.

Millward Brown is working with US-based EmSense Technology for this. The technology requires a headset to be strapped onto a person's forehead, thus allowing it to measure brainwaves, heart rate and body temperature from the frontal lobes. This helps to measure and record emotional and cognitive responses.

Brainwave data can provide a record of participants' reactions to an ad on a moment-to-moment basis. This can be very useful, because many of these responses are so quick and fleeting that viewers may not even remember them, let alone objectively report them.

In India, Millward Brown has tested brainwave measurement for seven ads on a sample size of 300 people. The technology was tested in two very different markets -- Madurai, a small town in the South, and Delhi, a metro in the North.

One of the ads was Dove's 'Evolution' ad, which illustrates the process of preparing a model for a shoot and then digitally enhancing the results. Quantitative copytesting found the ad to be engaging, emotionally resonant and a powerful communicator of the core idea. The EmSense data illustrated the cognitive and emotional paths that respondents' brains travelled, as the ad was viewed (See picture).

At a point where it becomes clear that the film is about the creation of a billboard, it was observed that there was a peak in both positive emotion and cognition, followed by more negative emotions as the implications sink in. This sequence of responses was a powerful illustration of how the ad succeeds -- it lays bare the beauty industry's "tricks of the trade", which is not only fascinating and revealing, but also saddening.

Shiv Moulee, chief client officer, Millward Brown India also discussed ad transference in India and the challenges in creating advertising that can cross borders or regions effectively, even in a culturally diverse country like India.

He spoke about three factors that could help ads do well across regions. The first of these is creating a unique brand space that delivers consistent brand cues or associations. Thus, brands such as Dettol, Maggi and Complan do well across regions. Sometimes, such ads even go beyond borders, examples being those by Dove and iPod.

Second is the idea of a "common shared culture". Thus, ads based on Bollywood or cricket have the power to travel well, because they hold similar meaning across the country.

Third is the insight of fundamental "human truths". These include finding a partner, spending time with family or helping the next generation to develop and thrive. Moulee cited the example of Surf's 'Daag Acche Hain' campaign, where a brother fights with a mud puddle to appease his sister, who had fallen in the puddle.

Discussing the transference of ads between the north, south, east and west India, Moulee shared that research showed that where ads are concerned, the North and the South don't see eye to eye. In 26 per cent of the cases, ads that did well in the West didn't do well in the North; while in 49 per cent of the cases, ads that did well in the North didn't do well in the West. Thus, the West is also a poor receiver of ads from the North.

The East, he pointed out, occupies a unique status and is more critical and cynical in nature. Thus, chances are that if an ad does well in the East, it is likely to do well in other regions. This is an important insight for brands that have an Eastern focus.