Measuring Emotions – Enhancing User Experience & Ad Effectiveness

Fabio Giraldo, Associate Director, Advanced Analytics, Mindshare

By: Fabio Giraldo, Associate Director, Advanced Analytics, Mindshare North America

Brands are always looking for ways to influence people’s behavior to get them to try a product or service. But that’s not as simple as designing  creative and throwing it out there to see what sticks to the wall. It requires making a connection with people and their feelings to get them to consider your brand.

Emotions play a big role in people’s decision making. Not too long ago, Portuguese-American neuroscientist Antonio Damasio made an unprecedented discovery. While he was studying subjects with damage in the part of the brain where emotions  originate, he noticed that even though these subjects appeared normal they weren’t able to experience emotions. This insight wasn’t surprising – but the most interesting part of the study was that his subjects had a very difficult time making decisions! They could explain what they should be doing from a logical perspective, but making a simple decision such as what to eat was incredibly hard.

Brands are aware that emotions drive actions, but the challenge is, how do you measure and quantify these emotions? This was the main discussion topic at Thursday’s Advertising Week session “Measuring Emotions – Enhancing User Experience & Ad Effectiveness.”

Traditionally, surveys have been the main source of emotion data, exposing people to ads and asking them specific questions about their ad experience. The challenge with survey-driven data is that people usually provide their rational interpretation of their emotions rather than their actual emotions. As a result, companies have come up with new technologies to measure emotions, usually involving volunteering individuals that are exposed to ads at the moment the data is being collected. Some of these methods include:

  • Facial recognition technology: Recognize people’s facial expressions as they react to an ad. It’s relatively easy to implement as it just requires cameras pointing towards the subject’s face
  • Eye tracking: This helps answer questions such as – Is the person looking at an ad at all? How long does a person look at an ad? What portion of the ad does a person look the most? Like facial recognition, it’s relatively easy to implement.
  • Linguistics: Voice tone and word usage when talking about an ad or a brand after viewing an ad.
  • Social media activity: Sharing, liking, marking as sad, angry, etc.
  • FMRI: Measures brain activity produced by blood flow during ad exposure. Provides rich and high-quality data but the devices are usually cumbersome to wear.
  • Galvanic Skin Response (GSR): Measures skin conductance driven by the amount of sweat secretion from sweat glands. Similar to FMRI, devices tend to be cumbersome.

When considering what technology to use, brands need to find a balance of cost, scalability, granularity, intrusion level, among other things. And, they should keep in mind that using multiple techniques will provide a more rounded perspective versus only looking at one.