How the science of advertising
has changed everything
Let’s jump in the ol’ time machine and go on a 30-year journey through advertising. What’s changed. What’s stayed the same. As we crank the “Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News and take the Delorean time machine for spin through different types of ads and learn how they spoke to us. How the science of the right and left side of the brain made the ads and how left and right brain advertising will look and change in 2021 and beyond.
Green GiantCorn Niblets
There's no denying this ad was successful at establishing effective brand and category recognition. To this day, parents and their now grown children fondly remember the Green Giant, his son, and the brand's catchy slogan (Ho ho ho). These elements in marketing are known as "fluent devices", which speak to the right side of the brain that easily recalls a character's voice, movement, and expression.
I Can't Believe It's Not ButterFabio
The right side of the brain responds well to messages that include cultural work, which I Can't Believe It's Not Butter tapped into with the inclusion of hunky Fabio in their 1996 ad. For the younglings out there, Fabio is probably the world's most famous romance novel cover model, and for the Boomers out there he was also someone who killed a bird with his impeccable face in 1999. These ads used him as a sex symbol to make a connection and tell a story. But this ad is effective because of the balance. For instance, it's creatively abstract and moves away from the traditional progressive storyline. Overall, this campaign resulted in long-term success, which included increased brand recognition and penetration, as well as customer loyalty.
In 2003, BMW pioneered modern branded entertainment with a film series, which spoke heavily to the right side of the brain with a full narrative and progressive story. The films were effective and led to long term success with BMW seeing a 74% sales increase and the equivalent of $26 million exposure in free publicity.
Sony BraviaColour like no other
2005 and 2006 is when we saw the peak of left brain dominance in advertising. Sony Bravia’s Colour like no other campaign is the perfect example as it’s the epitome of abstract creative featuring colourful balls, a whimsical setting and a rhythmic soundtrack, which both speak to the left side of the brain. This ad has little appeal to the right side of the brain, as the human element is extremely limited, but it still worked incredibly well. Since then, the campaign has been watched millions of times on YouTube, more than two million people visited Bravia-advert.com, and the ad was downloaded 40,000 times (can you imagine someone actually downloading an ad?).
The Happy Egg CompanyHappy Hens Lay Happy Eggs
We continue to see a heavier focus on left brain advertising in 2011 with the example of The Happy Egg Company. The ad’s left brain attributes include a high level of abstraction with the use of charging chickens and a voiceover that guides the viewer rather than a dialogue between characters. It’s positioned more like a nature documentary than an ad, where the audience is experiencing a montage-like series of visuals without a narrative thread.
ChipotleBack To the Start
The early 2010s saw substantial experimentation and adoption of longer form digital content and brands like Chipotle were able to tell more compelling narratives that achieved a balance of right and left brains. The narrative follows an animated farmer as he struggles to decide on his method of farming pigs for Chipotle. This attachment and sympathy towards the character as well as the recognizable music of Coldplay and Willie Nelson is very right brain focused. While the message at the end of the video combined with the call to action to visit the website is leaning more towards the left.
AldiKevin the Carrot
In 2017 we see the return of an even balance of right and left brain focused ads with Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot. The character of Kevin is used as a fluent device, which appeals to the right side of the brain and allows the audience to establish an emotional connection. There’s little dialogue between the characters, rather a voiceover narrates a story, which speaks to both sides of the brain. The ad also focuses on the Christmas holiday which makes a connection with audiences through the right brain.
It's All About Balance
A healthy balance of right and left brain tactics is a good place to start when brands are trying to be effective in their advertising. It’s obvious that brands benefit from both techniques, as both approaches positively influence brand awareness and the path to purchase. There’s also no strict formula that says how left or right brained your marketing should be. Marketing is arguably a direct reflection of culture and how society is operating at that moment. Even looking back on the past 30 years of ads can we pick up on subtle cues that tell a story about the time they were aired in.
For example, the pandemic we are currently living through has been a direct testament of that. Right-brained marketing has risen to the top as people gravitate to real-world news stories and rational solutions. What will be interesting for brands is to understand what this means in the long-term and if we will get back to the balance in right and left brain tactics.