Borderland research company studies Super Bowl commercials, brain activity

Super Bowl Ads and Brain Activity...

EL PASO, Texas - A Borderland neuroscience research company is on the cutting edge when it comes to Super Bowl commercials, studying brain activity to see what ads work and which ones don't.

A couple of Super Bowl LI commercials, which will be studied by El Paso's own Sands Research, have immigration themes and appear to possibly be making a political statement, which can be risky.

"The main things is just to cover the head in a spherical way and then we go back and we digitize where those electrodes are," said Dr. Stephen Sands, who developed a cap with dozens of sensors on it and has been studying Super Bowl commercials for 10 years. "From there we then localize where that brian activity is coming from. A few years back it was all about emotion and shock ."

New this year are ads, like one for 84 Lumber, that seem to deal with the hot topic of immigration. The 60-second ad shows a woman and her daughter making the journey across Mexico, then pushes you online for the conclusion.

"In the past I have stayed completely away from politics," Sands said.

That may be difficult to do this year.

This year's Budweiser Super Bowl commercial is called "Born the Hard Way." It chronicles co-founder Adolphus Busch's journey from Germany to St. Louis in the 1850's. Budweiser denies the ad makes a political statement.

"Everybody wants to see the clydesdales, so that's a huge departure because they are always in the top five or six ads," said Sands, who said the ads have prompted him to add a question at the end of his survey. "The question would be who did you vote for, obviously. Because people are really divided right now."

ABC-7 asked Sands if it's smart for those companies to go that route?

"I think it's risky, yeah," Sands said. "It's risky and that's very interesting."

Dr. Sands said some companies spend up to $20 million developing Super Bowl commercials. In addition to that, a 30-second spot during this year's game cost $5 million.

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