Neuroscience. It ain’t Rocket Surgery.

Well, maybe it is a little. What happens is they sit a bunch of people in a darkened room and put a helmet-like apparatus on their heads.

They don’t get a Lightsaber though, which is a shame. It would make the experience far more exciting

The helmet, which looks much like one of those experimental virtual reality game interfaces has a special visor for your eyes and an array of electrodes that measures your brain activity. This, of course, is how everybody listens to the radio.

The researchers agree that it’s not. But they assure me that the software and the data is set up to compensate for any differences between this and the real world.

A normal sample size for this type of neuroscience study is around 50. This one, for smoothfm took in 400.

The aim of this neuroscience project was to confirm what the marketing team already suspected; that listeners are more likely to absorb advertising messages they hear in the relaxing smoothfm environment than they would listening to other ‘noisier’ stations.

Of course, most research is commissioned to confirm what management instinctively already knows. If you thought that advertising on your station wasn’t particularly effective, why the hell would you pay good money to prove it?

Nonetheless, Nova Entertainment CEO, Cathy O’Connor did confess to the 250 strong media agency types gathered at last week’s Sydney launch that it was with some trepidation that she agreed to spend a considerable but undisclosed sum for this elaborate study for which the outcome was by no means guaranteed.

In the old DMG days, before Lachlan Murdoch took over, there was copious amounts of research commissioned to prove that playing no more than two ads in a row produced greater impact than traditional blocks of six or more. Yet, no matter how compelling that argument seemed to management, the ad agencies weren’t buying it and they weren’t prepared to pay a premium for it either.

When Mr Murdoch finally took over the network in 2009, the “no more than two ads in a row” policy that had been in place since 2001 was jettisoned quicker than a dummy on Millionaire Hot Seat.

By comparison to it’s previous incarnations, Vega and Classic Rock, smoothfm has been a runaway success. And everyone knows it, even media buyers. A 6.6 share in Sydney and a 7.4 in Melbourne as per Survey 8, 2014 should speak for itself.

Yet, in today’s world, raw ratings figures aren’t enough. Neither is anecdotal evidence that females of a certain age and psychographic are swooning over images of Michael Buble´as they listen to their now favourite station.

You need to “Change the conversation,” says Nova Entertainment’s Group Sales Director Peter Charlton (left). And judging by the crowd at the CBD venue, there was plenty to talk about after the presentation.

Not that Neuroscience studies such as this are new to radio. The peak body, CRA ran a similar study for the industry four years ago through market research company, Neuro Insight, which found that Australians are 32 percent more engaged with the content on their favourite radio station when compared to other media content.

Even back then, it was clear that ‘reach and frequency’ alone was was no longer the only measurement that media buyers were interested in. Engagement is the new Holy Grail.

And now the same research company has found that smoothfm listeners are 23 percent more engaged than the average station. 



Peter Saxon