News of the terribly odd

Not satisfied with traditional methods, a marketing firm in Atlanta, Ga. has launched a spinoff company dedicated to scanning consumers' brains as a form of market research.

Strangest research technique of the month: Neuromarketing

Not satisfied with traditional methods, a marketing firm in Atlanta, Ga. has launched a spinoff company dedicated to scanning consumers’ brains as a form of market research. The BrightHouse Institute for Thought Science uses magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to probe consumer preferences by measuring activity in the brain. ‘It’s a direct, unfiltered way to measure response,’ according to president Brian Hankin. BrightHouse pays $550 an hour for the use of an MRI machine. Practitioners are said to find the MRIs much more effective than focus groups and surveys.

Worst field research idea ever: An LAPD ride-along

Things went awry for two television writers who wanted a first-hand look at the gang members they hoped to document in the CBS series, Robbery Homicide Division.

The writers joined two police officers from the Los Angeles Police Department gang unit for a tour of East L.A. The cops facilitated some courteous meetings with local gang members until one cop spotted a known felon and suspected gang member standing well within the bounds of rival gang turf. When the cops pulled a U-turn and drove towards the stray felon, he pulled a gun and started shooting. No one was killed in the shoot-out that followed – even after 21 bullets were fired and a police officer heroically rammed into the suspect with the cruiser – but all parties sustained multiple injuries and the shooter faces trial this month. A show about the incident ran, but CBS later yanked the series. Both writers are now in trauma therapy.

Largest interactive media: Billboards with eyes

‘E-billboards’ in southern California are recording the radio listening habits of commuters.

Alaris Media Networks has outfitted 10 electronic billboards with receivers that can detect which radio stations commuters are listening to in their cars. The billboards call up whichever advertisement corresponds to the most popular station at that time. Ads will switch every seven seconds.

The billboards also record the information, which Alaris says is ‘critical’ to its clients as well as the radio stations involved.