New Balance Used Neuroscience to Track Consumer Attention and Trim Its NYC Marathon Ad

Nielsen's algorithm created a compressed spot

New Balance worked with VML on the creative campaign. New Balance
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New Balance took a new approach to its New York City Marathon campaign earlier this month, using a compression algorithm from Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience to inform how it edited its 30-second spot into a shorter ad. The company, which served as the official footwear and apparel sponsor for the New York Road Runners for the second year in a row, employed the approach to ensure its 15-second spot was as effective as possible.

By using Nielsen’s tools to examine consumers’ brain-wave data, the company found the most effective parts of the ad and trimmed it down to “cut through the noise,” explained Allie Tsavdarides, director of global consumer marketing for New Balance. 

“The algorithm determines the peaks or highest moments of engagement for the ad,” said Carl Marci, chief neuroscientist for Nielsen Consumer Neuroscience. “The software identifies the corresponding portions of the video, literally edits it out into this compressed file. The output is essentially a rough cut of the original longer ad, and that rough cut is typically about half as long, plus or minus a few seconds, on how engaging that ad is. It’s a rough cut and a guide for the brand team and the creative agencies to make a shorter ad.” 

The shorter cut from Nielsen wasn’t prescriptive and, in fact, did serve as a guide for New Balance to use with its creative team. VML is behind the creative campaign.

We didn’t actually edit every single piece out,” Tsavdarides said. “We used it to inform what would be a little bit gratuitous versus what we knew would be impactful from a messaging standpoint.” 

Tsavdarides noted that VML was receptive to the process, which helped “take subjectivity out.” 

“We were sitting in the sessions and it literally felt like we were in somebody’s mind and watching how they were looking at things,” Tsavdarides said. “That was so unique. [Marketers] often have to speculate.”

Nielsen has tested its compression algorithm across 80 ads and 30 brands, according to Marci, who explained that “when you test a 30-second spot and then you retest that rough cut of the 15-second spot, what we’ve found is that 90 percent of the time, the ads score as well or better on our key performance metrics. The idea that a shorter ad can work harder is very exciting for clients.” 

@KristinaMonllos Kristina Monllos is a senior editor for Adweek.