TV's Still the Best Way for Marketers to Burn Ads into Your Brain

Which probably explains why TV ad prices are rising despite declining viewership

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Despite declining viewership, advertisers are spending more and more on TV commercials. According to a Wall Street Journal, the continued growth of spending on TV advertising follows the simple rules of supply and demand. With the supply of commercial time on TV dwindling, demand is on the rise and prices are following; the opposite is true for internet ads. But marketers maintain that TV ads also serve a fundamentally different role. "The Internet, they say, excels at taking your order once you know what you want, such as helping you hunt for and book a vacation," The Journal reports. "TV, on the other hand, is good at getting you to want something, like a new car, and to remember to buy it, they added." New neurological research explains why.

A study published Wednesday in the Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology, and Economic offers insight into how our brains respond to advertisements. Regardless of the message, the study says, the most effective ads are the ones that appeal to our non-rational impulses, like emotions and sex drive. Dr. Ian Cook, the lead author of the study, says that seductive ads "lead to less behavioral inhibition, which could translate to less restraint when it comes to buying products." Despite buzz around interactive ads, old-fashioned TV commercials are better at manipulating these impulses because they allow the unconscious brain take over. "When you're watching ads, and so forth, you're kind of passively watching it, but your brain is responding to it," Mark Kishiyama, the lab director at neurological marketing firm NeuroFocus, told NPR. "You think a 30-second ad is so fast it's not going to get in, but it does."

This doesn't mean that internet ads are useless; they're just different. By 2016, market researchers expect spending on interactive ads to match TV, and online video spending will make up for much of that growth. Meanwhile, marketers will try to figure out how to tap into the want-parts of internet users' brains; there are even rumors that Facebook will release a Want button at this year's f8 developers conference. It still won't make people pay more attention more to banner ads than they do to TV commercials, though. And it certainly doesn't hurt that TV watchers, on average, have more money to spend than internet users.

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