Understanding how advertising affects in­store behaviour is one of the “missing links” in consumer studies. While we can understand how advertisements work and affect preferences, few studies actually link ad responses to actual consumer choices in a real store environments. To better understand the effects of advertising and communication on actual store behaviour, we conducted a study for a major US retail client to test whether ads would change actual product purchase, and what attentional, emotional and cognitive responses that would determine these effects.

What we did

Mobile eye­tracking and neuroimaging (EEG).

40 men and women were recruited from the region of Mooresville, North Carolina. All participants were asked to undergo a calibration procedure for mobile eye­trackers and EEG. As a cover story, they were also asked to look at commercials and TV documentaries as part of the calibration procedure. A simultaneous behavioural test on multiple participants was also used to compare the behavioural effects of ads.

Crucially, one of the ads shown was for a specific paint brand. Here, one group saw a 15 second version of the ad, another group saw a 30 second version of the ad, and a control group saw all other commercials except the specific paint ad. After undergoing the calibration procedures, participants were taken to the store entrance of a major retail company, and given a shopping list of 4­5 tasks. One of the tasks was to find and buy paint for their living­room. After they had chosen the products, they were asked about why they had chosen the products, using a stepwise debriefing interview, which started with open-ended questions, followed by cueing in on the potential effects of ads on choice, and finally ending with the provision of detailed information about how ads were used to affect their behaviour.


In the study, we found that people who saw a 30 seconds version of the paint ad always chose that brand in the in­store test. A 15­second version of the same ad showed a 91% likelihood of purchase, compared to the control group (that saw no paint ad), where 78% chose the particular paint brand. Notably, no participant recalled seeing the paint ad, and even when shown the ad, they denied being affected by the ad.

By using the Neurons Inc NeuroMetricTM measures, we found that those who had been exposed to the ads showed both more attention to the branded shelves, and a stronger emotional response when facing the products. The effect of the prior ad exposure was to produce more visual attention towards the brand­related paint shelves This demonstrates that neural responses to ads can be key drivers in consumer choice, and that they can be measured using the NeuroMetricTM solution.

  • “In the study, we found that people who saw a 30 seconds version of the paint ad always chose that brand in the in­store test.“

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