Editor's note: Charles Young is CEO of Ameritest. 

Attention and memory are the alpha and the omega of advertising effectiveness, just as rhythm and melody are essential for anyone trying to pen a memorable pop song. To connect attention-getting advertising to action, such as consumer purchasing behavior, it is necessary for advertising to work through memory.

Short-term or working memory, which integrates all the perceptions of the advertising experience streaming to the brain – pictures, words and music – does its job typically in less than 30 seconds, before passing the ball to long-term memory.

For advertisers who debate the short-term versus long-term effects of advertising, it is important to understand that memory plays a role in all types of effective communication. Performance advertising, focused on short-term sales effects, works by activating existing memories left behind by past marketing activities, while brand-building advertising does its job by adding new memories to the brand’s memory bank account, which then can pay dividends over months or years.

In the current “attention economy,” therefore, it is important to understand how attention is connected to memory in a piece of communication.

To study long-term brand memories, Ameritest ran a follow-up experiment with 36 fast-food commercials that we had tested a year earlier. In this experiment we used two very different approaches to our diagnostic measurement: the Picture Sorts technique used in our standard pretest, and EEG measurement, using brain wave equipment developed by Steve Sands of the University of El Paso.

What we discovered is that the two measurement approaches are uncorrelated but complementary in providing insights into the communication problem. That is, the two measurement approaches are measuring two different psychological variables that are both involved in determining advertising effectiveness...