What Endures

Yesterday I read an article in QRCA Views titled “Biometrics in Research: Using Brain Science to Reveal Human Emotions.” The article discussed the use of heart rate, facial Electromyography (EMG), galvanic skin response and eye tracking to measure, respectively attention, positive and negative valence, arousal/intensity of emotional response, and perceptual attention. And I thought to myself, “gee whiz, we were doing eye tracking, pulse rate measurement and galvanic skin response back in the 1970s. Didn’t call it “biometrics” and we sure didn’t have the techniques honed the way they are today, and we sure didn’t have the depth of science to back it up, but we were

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I don’t know whether to feel like a pioneer or a curmudgeon.

And speaking of emotion, a recent piece on NPR’s All Things Considered took on the topic of emotion in advertising – specifically, the kind of advertising that make a viewer feel sad. It’s now branded “sadvertising.” (Cute.) According to the reporter quoted in the piece, “…the real start of sadvertising as we know it… was in 2011, with the “Dear Sophie” commercial by Google. And I thought to myself, “gee whiz, does she not remember all those great Hallmark ads like “Mrs LaGow’s Gift,” or “Retirement,” produced in the 1980s? Or the Folger’s ad with the returning son?

So much is new and exciting in research and in advertising. So much more we can do with online technologies, with new understanding of how the brain works. So much that keeps me engaged, invigorated, always learning.

But every now and again it hits me that there’s a lot that’s posed as “new” that isn’t. It’s old, it’s timeless, it’s classic. Things endure when they work. Like advertising that makes us cry and feel sad. Or using physiological measures to understand how we react to products and advertising. Or – dare I say it – doing in –person interviews like focus groups and IDIs.


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