Login for members

Unlocking the Unconscious Codes of Leader Digital Ads

By Eda Ocak

Unlocking the Unconscious Codes of Leader Digital Ads

The main drivers and effects of digital and TV were blurred in the minds of brands. In order to shed a light on marketers’ questions, ThinkNeuro designed a research study. The main purpose was to understand when to use which communication media, the reasons for that choice and the potential different perceptions and unconscious reactions towards different screens. The research aimed to find common unconscious patterns behind the ads hitting YouTube Ads Leaderboard between 2016-2018. Very interesting results were uncovered by comparing the unconscious dynamics of the most successful 38 digital ads selected from YouTube Ads Leaderboard versus the benchmark. The benchmark was pre-set using neuro measurement of nearly a thousand TV ads. This research revealed similarities and gaps between TV and digital. In addition, the effect of using different screens and the reasons are explained in detail. As the methodology combined traditional and neuromarketing research techniques, the results created huge impact among marketing and digital marketing professionals - serving as a guide for optimizing advertising strategy.


Global and local ads to be researched were selected with the guidance of YouTube from YouTube Ads Leaderboard. 38 of the “leader ads” were measured by EEG and eye-tracking in an equipped studio to retrieve second by second unconscious reactions among 256 participants (50 % women). 48 neuroscore-based in-depth interviews were conducted to understand the underlying reasons for peaks and dips in the data. Ads were compared with TV benchmarks and similarities and differences and their reasons were analyzed. The effect of TV screen vs digital screens was also studied with additional neuro research. Common emotional patterns, neuroscore based in-depth interviews, literature and ThinkNeuro expertise were combined in order to interpret the underlying reasons behind the leader digital ads’ success.


One of the main findings of the research indicates that if a video intended for TV is also published in the digital environment, the effects hugely differ. While television conveys the message of a force directly associated with the brand, digital, on the other hand, can evoke strength and impact in attracting attention. It’s no surprise that both communication means perform best when the storytelling is effective. However, lengthening the time on digital, while telling the story, may not necessarily be a good idea. It should be kept in mind that there are certain time limits for both TV and the digital to be watched actively, which can be extended a little with the help of storytelling. Another question that has been answered is whether or not to put the brand logo in the video. Contrary to common knowledge, our study demonstrated that putting the logo at the beginning of the film did not increase brand engagement. In addition, without engagement, brand awareness does not mean much. Therefore, it appears that placement of the logo especially at the beginning of the ad, does not in itself guarantee very positive effects.


Making effective marketing investments is key to marketing success. However, only by deeper understanding of the different dynamics of TV and
digital can the optimal marketing mix be attained. The opportunity cost can be severe for not utilizing the most appropriate communication channel for
the right content. The study insights serve as a general guideline to understand audience unconscious reactions towards digital advertisements and the differences from TV. Ad agencies creative processes have subsequently been influenced by the findings; resulting in more “customer unconscious oriented” outputs. The research was the most comprehensive neuro digital study in the world according to Google. The results combined both neuro findings and advertisement/ creative experience; forming tremendous synergy that has brought together different stakeholders from across the field of marketing and advertising. 

Final thoughts

Just because both TV and digital are screens, doesn’t mean they have the same impact.

This article was originally published in the Neuromarketing Yearbook Order your copy today