This research investigated the use of consumer neuroscience to improve and determine the effectiveness of action/emotion-based public health and social cause (HSC) advertisements. Action-based advertisements ask individuals to ‘do something’ such as ‘act’, ‘share’, make a ‘pledge’ or complete a ‘challenge’ on behalf of a brand, such as doing ‘something good, somewhere, for someone else’. Public health messages as noncommercial advertisements attempt to positively change behavioural intent or increase awareness. Australian health expenditure was $180.7 billion AUD (Australian dollars) in 2016/17 with $17 million AUD spent on government health campaigns. However, evaluation of health advertisement effectiveness has been difficult to determine. Few studies use neuroscience techniques with traditional market research methods. A 2-part study with an exploratory design was conducted using (1) electroencephalography (EEG) using a 64 channel EEG wet cap (n = 47); and (2) a Qualtrics online psychometric survey (n = 256). Participants were asked to make a donation before and after viewing 7 HSC digital/social media advertisements and logos (6 action/emotion-based; 1 control) to measure changes in behavioural intent. Attention is considered a key factor in determining advertising effectiveness. EEG results showed theta synchronisation (increase)/alpha desynchronisation (decrease) indicating attention with episodic memory encoding. sLORETA results displayed approach responses to action/emotion-based advertisements with left prefrontal and right parietal cortex activation. EEG and survey results showed the greatest liking for the ManUp action/emotion-based advertisement which used male facial expressions of raw emotion and vulnerability. ManUp also had the highest increased amount donated after viewing. Lower theta amplitude results for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) action/emotion-based advertisement indicated that novel (possessing distinct features) rather than attractive/conventional faces were more appealing, while the rapid presentation of faces was less effective. None of the highest peak amplitudes for each ad occurred when viewing brand logos within the advertisement. This research contributes to the academic consumer neuroscience, advertising effectiveness, and social media literature with the use of action/challenge/emotion-based marketing strategies, which remains limited, while demonstrating the value in combining EEG and neuroscientific techniques with traditional market research methods. The research provides a greater understanding of advertising effectiveness and changes in behavioural intent with managerial implications regarding the effective use of action/challenge/emotion-based HSC communications to potentially help save a life and reduce expenditure on ineffectual HSC marketing campaigns.
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