Caressing the cortex

So you thought the Stalinist Soviet Union was the last word in attempts at mind control? (Double)think again.

The charmingly named BrightHouse is a US company based in Atlanta, Georgia, which specializes in advertising, consultancy and general corporate strategy. It counts Coca-Cola and K-Mart among its clients and claims it ‘uncovers and articulates The Master Idea for our clients’ – the usual blah.

The scary part is that it has its own Neurostrategies Institute, which undertakes research into how the brain responds to advertising campaigns and then uses the information to tailor marketing so as to hit the (brain) parts the other brands don’t reach. ‘Our goal,’ they say, ‘is to define the neural basis of behaviours that are of specific interest to strategic business decision-making.’

They claim the most effective kind of advertising provokes activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, signalling an instinctive identification with the product. Other kinds of advertising may well hit other parts of the brain but they won’t light us up the way this does.

BrightHouse is sponsoring further groundbreaking research into this vital area of human endeavour at Emory University in Atlanta, only to find that a pesky Oregonbased campaign group called Commercial Alert has written to the US Government to demand that the University be debarred from receiving federal funds for having breached ethical research guidelines. Spoilsports.

Further richly deserved recognition has come from Multinational Monitor, which awarded BrightHouse the significant honour of being one of The 10 Worst Corporations of 2003.

New Internationalist issue 376 magazine cover This article is from the March 2005 issue of New Internationalist.
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