Archived—Project Summaries 2007-2008 - Service d’aide au consommateur

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1. Neuromarketing: A New Consumer Issue?


Recent advances in neuroscience have enabled advertisers to better grasp and understand how the human brain works. A new branch of marketing, called neuromarketing, applies brain imaging techniques that are used in hospitals. Neuromarketing has been the subject of intensive research for the last decade with a view to better targeting consumer advertising. Canada is no exception to this trend.

The use of neuromarketing is nevertheless controversial in the consumer world, with some people simply seeing it as a new persuasion tool, while others view it as a tool for manipulating consumers. The SAC will provide an overview of the situation following 10 years of experimentation in the field.

To do this, the SAC has already enlisted the support of a professor at the University of Montréal and the University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières, for certain components of the project: the current status of the neuromarketing, the development of a grid for identifying the use of this technique, discussions, etc.

In order to meet its objectives, the SAC will do the following:

  • Gather general information on neuromarketing by:
    • Compiling studies, journal articles and various publications on the issue;
    • Compiling study reports published by university neuroscience researchers in Canada and abroad;
    • Compiling existing legislation in Canada e.g., advertising, competition); and
    • Drawing parallels with other existing legislation on the matter around the world.
  • Analyse the information gathered.
  • Develop interview grids.
  • Conduct in-depth interviews on the following: understanding of processes, practices and uses, moral questioning, impacts of using the processes, etc, with a view to preparing arguments that could be used to support future legislation. The interviews will be conducted with:
    • Canadian and US communications and marketing firms;
    • The academic community;
    • Consumers;
    • Government organizations devoted to consumer protection, such as the Office de la protection du consommateur in Quebec; and
    • Hospitals and private clinics that have the equipment required.
  • Set up a blog on the Internet in English and French where members of the general public can submit comments.
  • Seek useful Web links.
  • Analyse advertising that could demonstrate the use of current processes relating to neuromarketing in Canada.
  • Analyse data.
  • Prepare a preliminary report.
  • Prepare a PowerPoint presentation on all of the elements.
  • Give presentations on the results to Advertising Standards Canada; the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission; the Canadian Direct Marketing Association; the Consumer Measures Committee; the Competition Bureau; and provincial consumer protection agencies.
  • Summarize comments made in response to the presentations.
  • Prepare the research report.
  • Make recommendations to:
    • Governments
    • Industries
    • Consumers

Thanks to the analysis grid, prepared in co-operation with University of Montréal and University of Quebec at Trois-Rivières, the study will include an analysis of samples of advertisements that are currently used in Canada and that stem from neuromarketing experiments (as a precautionary measure, the SAC cannot reveal the samples for the time being). According to the SAC, the analysis will enable it to broaden its research among users of the technique and help put this new marketing practice into perspective with respect to existing legislation or codes of ethics that could be affected by the practice.

If necessary, a public discussion forum will be organized for the purpose of informing the general public and seeking opinions and suggestions.