By Jessica Churchill

You have 30 seconds to leave an impression in a television commercial, while most viewers want to avoid the inconvenient postponement of their shows. So how do you capture their attention and make them remember your message when the average hour of television contains 14-20 minutes of ads? Neuroscience research shows that the key to being memorable is through activating the amygdala.

The amygdala is a small, almond-shaped part of the brain. It plays a role in both processing emotions—namely anger, fear, and pleasure (i.e., humor)—and storing memory. The amygdala assumes that the stronger your emotional reaction to something, the more important that information is to your survival. Thus, emotive experiences are more likely to be remembered. So if you only have half a minute to make people remember something, you’d better make them laugh, cry or cringe.

The following two commercials are prime examples of effective advertising, though they take completely different approaches. One is a humorous, sarcastic ad for a shaving club; the other is a moving public service announcement addressing seatbelt use.

A lighthearted, entertaining commercial can be just as successful as one that is personal and reflective, since each targets the amygdala in a different way. It is important to note that I saw both commercials on YouTube before I saw them on television because they were popular and often talked-about. Read: I actually went out of my way to see advertisements. If your advertising is good enough, your audience will promote it for you.

By understanding neuroscience you can more effectively reach your target audience—the amygdalae of television-watchers everywhere. Emotive advertising is the secret to memorability; in advertising, you cannot afford to be forgettable.