This is Your Brain. This is Your Brain on Ads. How Neuroscience affects Advertising.


by Jessica Bedussi

There’s no better way to entice a group of advertisers than with a “This is your brain on…” joke. This is exactly how I ended up in one of my favorite #SXSW sessions where two neuroscientists, Dr. Manuel Garcia-Garcia (Advertising Research Foundation) & Dr. Aaron Reid (Sentient Science Center), and Pranav Yadav, CEO of Neuro-Insight US, discussed the “non-conscious” decision-making of consumer purchasing behavior.

I scoured through my 8 pages of notes from the session and picked the most jaw-dropping statistics to share.


Only 38 percent of campaigns use creative customized for each platform

It sounds like common sense, but common sense is very often ignored. Dr. Garcia-Garcia shared the results of a Millward Brown study that the neural pathway to great creative is cross platform, with a unified message, and custom execution on each platform.

While cohesive campaign messaging is essential, users consume content differently depending on where they are. The enrapturing effect of a TVC is lost when viewed within the Facebook NewsFeed. In fact, a study showed that the same spot on TV and mobile was 50 percent less emotionally engaging to consumers viewing on mobile.

Each social platform has distinct audiences, capabilities, and community rules. The easiest way to shoot a creative campaign in the foot is to plaster the same creative on every platform with no customization.


95 percent of consumers say ads don’t affect their decisions

LOL. Most of the effects of advertising happen within the subconscious, meaning the everyday consumer believes they’re immune to advertising’s influence. This explains why emotional advertising can be effective.

As Dr. Reid put it, “We don’t want to know how you feel about an ad, we want to know how an ad makes you feel about a brand.”


Long-term memory encoding is the most important factor in predicting purchase intent

Layman’s terms: People are more likely to buy what you’re selling if they can recall your brand long-term.

One of the most crucial ways to do this is to align your brand with your target audience’s core values. It’s simple: People like brands they can relate to.

Above this is a simple reminder: Know your audience.

Individual brains respond to ads differently. Yadav recalled Mountain Dew’s 2016’s Puppy Monkey Baby Super Bowl spot as a prime example. Women overwhelmingly responded negatively to the spot, but males aged 18-35 (the brand’s target audience) loved the commercial and brand.

Neuroscience research is an important and fascinating element of advertising.

TL;DR: Customize creative for each platform, connect emotionally, and know your target audience.

Ways Of Seeing


by Chin Lu


In 1972, British author John Berger co-produced a BBC four-part series called “Ways of Seeing.” These TV programs created quite a stir at the time: Challenging the almost religious mystification of famous Western art, calling out misogyny in paintings and modern advertisements, and exploring what the reproduction of art and reality through photography mean. Soon the influential series was turned into a book—serving as an introductory art history or media studies textbook for many students around the world, including me.

In short, Berger urged each one of us to carefully view and think critically about the images we consume, whether it’s the historical symbolism in a Renaissance tableau hanging at the museum, the post-production manipulation of a print ad in a lifestyle magazine, or the legitimacy of a photograph in an online publication.

Earlier this year, Berger passed away at the age of 90 (RIP), but his work is still highly important: A picture is worth a thousand words, and in this current era of fake news and alternative facts, critical analysis of imagery is more crucial than ever.

Our strategy team revisited Berger by watching the TV programming in the span of a few weeks as a tribute. It was a great reminder of our responsibilities as professionals in the industry formerly known as advertising.

More and more consumers are demanding authenticity in advertisements: For example, there’s an increasing need and desire to see realistic imagery of products on “real women” instead of Photoshopped images of models with rare proportions—And they sell better, too! And for brands deciding to participate in cause marketing, they should expect to publicly provide transparency on how the company is walking its talk with action and internal changes.

Art is always political, and Berger taught us to contemplate the intentions of the image’s creator when viewing work, including ads. While I’m glad to see the recent increase of female empowerment in “femvertising,” it’s worth repeating again and again that diversity of representation both in front and behind the camera every step of the process is crucial for producing work that actually resonates with the changing population and mindsets of America: whose story is it to tell, who gets to tell the story, and who profits from the story are all factors that can no longer afford to be considered as afterthoughts in this politically significant time.


MH Sounds: January 2017

2017_01_Jan (1)


This month’s music post is a little late. It took us so long to post because, honestly, we’re sad. We’re ashamed. We’re better than this. We had to recheck the data a few times, do some clean exports, and point a few fingers via Slack. John Mayer was our most listened to artist of January.


John Mayer.

THAT John Mayer?

There are a few stages of grief. It feels like we’ve finally reached acceptance. Maybe not—this isn’t acceptable.

To be fair to the agency, these plays happened in what seems to be an isolated incident that took place one night and was contained to one floor, but we aren’t making excuses. We know it was wrong.


1 – Please still like us. 

2 – The XX Put everything on hold, except for this album. 

3 – The Rolling Stones They were the number 6 played artist for all of 2016, and are holding steady for 2017.

4 – The Weeknd He’s the mother f*ckin starboy and we don’t even mind the typo is his name.  

5 – Hot Chip Whether it’s 2006 or 2017, over and over, we’re ready for the floor.

This Week In Social: The Internet’s Most Divisive Cookie



by Melissa Santiago

Everyone has seen these cookies. They magically appear for any and every occasion and holiday. Apparently, there is a corner of Twitter where people think these are, “bottom of the barrel, flavorless piece of sh*t things they have the nerve to call cookies.”

After Twitter user @taysux posted that in a tweet with a photo of the cookies, Twitter jumped to defend the cookies. 

A few came to Taylor’s defense. Sadly, they are all wrong. Refinery 29 aptly stated, “if they’re flavorless, then all sugar cookies are because THAT IS THE FLAVOR, TAYLOR.”

That IS the flavor, Taylor. And go ahead, pass those cookies by. That leaves more for those of us who appreciate their soft, sweet, cakey goodness. 

Brands Taking a Stand Against Trump


Major brands including Starbucks, Nike, Kickstarter, Periscope and others are jumping into the political conversation to oppose President Trump and his administration’s immigration ban.

After the executive order was signed on Friday, January 27, individuals across the nation were detained at airports by Customs and Borders Protection officers. Some detainees were put on planes and sent out of the country, while others were detained for hours, and some are still waiting to be released as the implementation of the order caused chaos.

On Sunday, Starbucks’s CEO Howard Schultz announced the company’s commitment to hiring 10,000 refugees.

Nike CEO, Mark Parker, issued a statement to his employees. In it, he spoke out against the ban, explicitly stating that he and Nike do not support the policy. “Nike stands together against bigotry and any form of discrimination,” Parker wrote. “Now more than ever, let’s stand up for our values and remain open and inclusive as a brand and as a company.”

And Periscope added a tag to its loading screen saying “Proudly Made in America by Immigrants.” 

Even Goldman Sachs CEO, Lloyd Blankfein, sent an internal memo to employees according to the Wall Street Journal writing, “This is not a policy we support.”

Uber was on the negative end of the conversation with users accusing the company of attempting to profit off of the situation with JFK airport surge pricing during protests while also criticizing CEO Travis Kalanick’s involvement with Donald Trump. #DeleteUber became a top trending hashtag with many posting screen shots of them deleting their accounts. 

Alternatively, competitor Lyft received praise for announcing plans to donate $1 million to the ACLU.

One thing is becoming certain: brands will not be able to sit quietly through these rapid and polarizing political developments. 

Straight Outta Compin’

by Greggy Adriano

Meetings are stressful. Internal creative reviews can be scary. And in the early stages of a new project or pitch, the initial check-ins can be daunting for creative teams. The first meeting sets the tone and creative vibe for the rest of the project.

In the last few hours before the first creative review, there’s a nervous energy that fills the air. To ease my own anxiety and to have a little fun, I replaced our usual team introduction slide —a slide that is easily forgotten—with us in a popular meme.


When it was our turn to present, our opening slide went up and the whole room erupted into laughter.We got a boost of confidence and added some levity to the presentation—and set the tone for an engaging meeting.

If you’d like to see more of these masterpieces, we’ll be posting a full series on Twitter.

MH Sounds: 2016 Music


Every month, Senior Designer, Charlotte Cooper, compiles a gradient graphic with the top plays from our Sonos plays creating our monthly agency chart toppers. Here we present our top artists for 2016. For a fully immersive experience, give our playlist a spin on Spotify.

1 – Drake Wow. We really love Drake. This is not a surprise to anyone who spends an extended amount of time on the sixth floor. Views (From The Six) on the sixth floor, poetic. 

2 – Chance The Rapper Arguably the hip-hop community’s most beloved artist this year.

3 – Frank Ocean Does anyone else doodle his name in cursive all over their notebook? Just me?

4 – Tame Impala Everyone’s favorite Australian psychedelic band.

5 – The Beatles Fab five at number five.


Consumer Electronics Show 2017

A Strategy Director, a Creative Director, and a robot walk into a bar…

We sent some people to CES. We asked them to keep our social editorial team up-to-date and report back with any observations, breakthrough cultural insights, and exciting tech.

We know the real interesting stuff in tech and marketing happens behind closed doors, but here’s a clear, concise, and hopefully compelling recap from the floor, broken down by the most popular topics represented.

1. VR

Remember those 4D motion theaters at theme parks, boardwalks, and malls? Looks like they are about to be replaced with VR roller coasters. Or maybe this is 2017’s hottest experiential marketing tool. Either way, sit down, but no need to buckle up, you’re not actually going anywhere.

2. Robots



David & Joel like this robot. It seems cool. Not sure what it does.

CES had a lot of robots. You can read about some of them.


3. Self-Driving Cars

The Verge tells us that Nvidia is working with Audi to get self-driving cars on the market by 2020.




Audi was not alone as major manufacturers show off their autonomous driving tech. See real life photos from our boots-on-the-ground.







Advertisers need to take a stronger stance against fake news



This originally appeared in Campaign.

Brands too often play a passive role in the placement of their digital advertising, relying on media agencies, programmatic buying and ad tech vendors to sort out the details.

Since the election, fake news has become one of the most talked about subjects in media. Some of the biggest players in advertising, including Facebook and Google, have said they are banning fake news sites that spread misinformation from their ad networks. Ad tech firm AppNexus, along with brands like Allstate, Kellogg’s, SoFi and ModCloth, have said they won’t advertise on Breitbart, which has come under wide criticism as a hyperpartisan and misleading site after Trump’s appointment of its chairman, Steve Bannon, as chief strategist.

While these are admirable first steps, advertisers should take greater responsibility for their digital advertising and the sites they support to make sure their ads aren’t funding the worst offenders. Taking such a stand isn’t necessarily easy, and the move, depending on the site, can be a political one. Kellogg’s faced a backlash when Breitbart and its supporters “declared war” against the company and called for a boycott of its products. The fear of such retaliation may keep some marketers from entering the fray, but it shouldn’t. Their role in the digital ecosystem is too important.

Brands need to recognize that they are participating in the erosion of quality content online with their ad dollars. Some fake news creators have claimed they’ve made between $10,000 and $30,000 a month. That’s ad revenue that other, more legitimate publishers desperately need. For every dollar going to shady sites, that’s one dollar not going to credible outlets. Brands should get more involved in their media plans and know where their ads are being placed.

Marketers often play a passive role in the placement of their digital advertising, relying on media agencies, programmatic buying and ad tech vendors to sort out the details. It’s understandable. After all, it’s nearly impossible to monitor where all digital ads are placed, and the supply chain is complicated. But as we well know, the devil is in the details. Instances of fraud and viewability can evade even the best media agencies, as fraudsters stay one step ahead of brand safety tools and other safeguards.

Advertisers can be proactive by creating blacklists of sites they don’t want to support, but it’s not always a guarantee that their ads won’t run on them. The problem, according to Digiday, stems in part from the fact that “agencies and performance marketing vendors aren’t always incentivized to use them, since much of digital media buying is still premised on cheap reach.”

Some brands have been asking agencies and ad tech specialists for help in battling this fake news problem, but if the vendors and agencies aren’t incentivized to enforce them, then marketers need to do so themselves. They need to arm themselves with internal expertise, with execs and employees that not only know the intricacies of the digital ecosystem, but can also hold themselves and their vendors accountable.

Marketers could also ask for monthly reports of where media has been placed. They could still buy programmatically and also use a private marketplace to help ensure better buys. Or they could do more direct buys, though that might require more effort. Many brands are doing these things now, but not enough of them. Some would rather not get involved and deflect blame to agencies and vendors.

Of course, there’s no real way to stop the creation of fake news sites. Even if they are thwarted, their creators could rapidly launch dozens of new sites that pop back up on exchanges. Instead of blacklisting sites, brands could instead create whitelists to ensure their ads are placed only on sites of their choosing.

This fake news crisis is all happening as traditional news organizations and media companies still grapple with the viability of their businesses in the digital and social age; even the digital-native ones are not exempt from this existential crisis. Old media companies have looming layoffs. And investors of newer ventures anxiously await return on their investments.

Advertisers have a responsibility in the digital ad ecosystem, and that should include ensuring their brands don’t support fraudulent news sites. Funnel that money instead to more legitimate places, with more acceptable ad formats. Educate the marketing department and recruit media experts to hold vendors accountable. Put pressure on agencies to demand that their vendors are acting in the best interests of their clients. Hire people who can find the holes in the digital ad supply chain and make sure they’re not exploited. It’s not easy, but the effort could go a long way.

—Maureen Morrison is senior editor at San Francisco-based Muhtayzik Hoffer. She was previously a reporter at Ad Age, covering everything from the agency business to digital and mobile advertising to marketing in the food industry.