Last week we continued our ‘Context is everything’ series, with a panel session of Advertising Week Europe. We’ll be publishing a full transcript soon, but in the meantime here are some edited highlights.

vi Head of Marketing Luc Benyon began by introducing the panel, which consisted of Neuroscientist Dr. Ali Jennings, who featured in one of our original Context is Everything films, Psychology of Advertising course director Leslie Hallam, and socio-linguist Alexandra Georgakopoulou-Nunes.

Alexandra Georgakopoulou-Nunes

Alexandra Georgakopoulou-Nunes (Professor, Kings College London)

Context affects and shapes the language we use, how we present ourselves, and how we relate with others. There are three key dimensions of context which linguists converge on:

  1. Situation (environment)
  2. Social interaction (engagement)
  3. Norms and practices (culture)

What this means is that the same person will both produce and interpret content differently , depending on: where they are (1), who they’re with (2), and their expectations (3).

The configuration of situation, social interaction and norms is dynamic and ever-changing, and we impact on it too.

Leslie Hallam

Leslie Hallam (Course Director, Psychology of Advertising, Lancaster University)

TV, cinema, and press ads are very mature environments; over a long period we’ve learned how to do this well. Context is down to a fine art here: from where you put the ad in an ad break, when it’s on, the programme that surrounds it, the people in it, the music… all these things are part of the context. It’s a very powerful mechanism for delivering brands to people and attention to brands.

It’s also a very creative endeavour. Creativity in this sense puts the brand and brand values in touch with the consumers, the consumer is required to fill in some aspect of the communication. Or it’s emotional, and consumers feel something; in both cases they’re part of that communication arc.

In the digital area – there is not so much creativity. And it’s a little disappointing.

Because digital has evolved very rapidly from a tech background, the discourse and culture within digital is very ‘low-context’. It means advertisers have to be very explicit in the language they use, because language changes all the time and if you’re not explicit people misunderstand you.

Because online you’re interfacing with the environment, perhaps that somewhat constrains the creativity. We’re at the foothills of what’s going to happen in digital, and with developments like AR there’s every opportunity for creativity.

To do that we need to work much more subtly, and creatively, rather than shouting to get attention.

Ali Jennings

Ali Jennings (Neuroscientist)

The most famous neuro-transmitter in the world is probably dopamine. What it does is two-fold. The first thing it does is reward you; it makes you feel good. The second thing it does is make you learn – that’s what it’s for. It makes you learn whatever the context was and makes you link that to whatever made you feel good.

If you construct stories well they release dopamine at the resolution. So they will give you an incredible opportunity, a window, to teach people something about your brand or product. But you have to be very careful about the context you present that solution in, because you’re going to be teaching them about everything they can see at that time.

You can watch the Context is Everything films here.