Spark Neuro

The Neuroscience of Super Bowl Ads

Optimizing the big game for big ad performance.

In Super Bowl LI, the New England Patriots came away with an unprecedented win. Meanwhile, who won the $385 million advertising game?

It seems the answer depends on who you ask. According to social media activity, the Netflix: Stranger Things ad ranked #1! And yet, according to survey data, that same Netflix ad came in #49 (out of 66). In one case, a niche fanbase skews the result and in the other case, a general audience reflects show awareness (more than the ad).

Our research answers a different question: How engaging is the ad itself? In other words, how much does it captivate attention and stir emotions? These are the metrics that make an ad break through the clutter. At SPARK Neuro we go straight to the source–reading human brain and nervous system activity. We ran a large scale study using our neuroscience technology to measure attention and emotion.

The Importance of Neurometrics

Industry standard research methods aren’t powerful enough for such a big ad spend. Self-report methods like surveys and focus groups suffer from biases, lack granularity, and miss the subconscious nature of emotion.

The advertising industry needs a more precise, quantifiable and actionable approach.
That’s where we come in.

SPARK Neuro measures real human reactions, not just what people say.

How SPARK Neuro Works

We conducted live neurological tests during Super Bowl parties as well as in the lab. Our testing system reads data from multiple sensors for the most accurate result:

  • Brain activity using an electroencephalogram(EEG)
  • Emotional arousal using galvanic skin response(GSR)
  • Facial reactions through micro-facial expression detection
  • Eye movements using retina tracking

Next, our proprietary algorithms convert thousands of data points per second into easy to understand metrics.

Here's how the top ads stacked up

Two Simple Metrics

The algorithm is complicated, so that the results can be simple. We track two metrics that correlate best with which ads are remembered later, increase brand affinity, and affect sales. The data is then reported second-by-second for the most power to optimize advertising effectiveness in every detail.


You want people to remember and be affected by your ads, which requires their attention.

SPARK Neuro scores attention between 0 and 10. A 0 is totally tuned out and is a 10 means that you are so engaged almost nothing could pull you away. It’s that simple.


If you want to stand out, you need to evoke strong emotions. Emotion is strongly correlated with memory, perception, and decision-making.

SPARK Neuro scores emotion between -10 (negative emotions: fear, anger, sadness, etc.) and +10 (positive emotions: joy, love, relief etc.), with 0 being emotionally neutral.

More intense is better. Unlike attention, where higher scores are better, emotional scores are different. The goal is typically to avoid long periods in the neutral zone (close to 0) and to spend more time at the extremes, whether positive or negative. Negative emotions do not translate to disliking an ad. Quite the opposite! An ad that makes you feel tension is telling a more dramatic story.

Here is a snippet of second-by-second results from one of the highly performing ads.

Have we sparked your interest?

Get in Touch
facebook instagram linkedin twitter