• Home  / 
  • Featured
  •  /  Brain Imaging Can Predict which Anti-Smoking Ads will Work the Best

Brain Imaging Can Predict which Anti-Smoking Ads will Work the Best

The End

With the help of functional magnetic resonance imaging, researchers from the universities of Michigan and Pennsylvania scanned the brains of smokers while they watched anti-smoking ads.

The fMRI team at Michigan monitored 50 smokers as they watched 40 different anti-smoking images one at a time.

They recorded brain activity spikes as the subjects cruised through the 40 ads. They were interested mostly in spikes that occurred in the medial prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain that’s responsible for decision making.

Stop Smoking, Start Living

Examples of 3 images used as the part of the New York State Quitline email campaign.

The researchers predicted the ads which showed the most brain activity in the MPFC area would achieve the best results in e-mail campaigns.

The next step was to test this in real life, so they e-mailed those 40 images to 800,000 smokers through the New York State Smokers Quitline. Each had the message: “Quit smoking. Start Living.”. The e-mails had links to help sources on how to quit smoking.

Test showed those ads that spiked the most brain activity in Michigan smokers collected the highest Click-Through Rate from e-mails that were sent to New York smokers (those who opened the e-mail, CTR ranged from 10% for the least successful images to 26% for the most successful ones) . By checking the brain scans, researchers effectively envisioned the efficiency of a large public health campaign.

Emily Falk, a professor at Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, commented:

»If you ask people what they plan to do or how they feel about a message, you one set of answers, Often the brain gives a different set of answers, which may help make public health campaigns more successful.
My hope is that moving forward, we might be able to use what we learned from this study and from other studies to design messages that are going to help people quit smoking and make them healthier and happier in the long run.«

Most images had negative tone, overthrowing research which commends that negative messages causes recipients to take a much more defensive approach.

The research has been published in the journal Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience titled: “Functional brain imaging predicts public health campaign success”.

About the author

Dean Smith