Millward Brown to pre-test mobile ads with facial coding in 2014

Marketers can soon measure the effectiveness of mobile campaigns not only by reach, clicks and views but also whether their audience is making faces.

Millward Brown Philippines managing director Goutam Mitra said that the WPP research agency is planning to launch pilot studies to pre-test mobile ads using facial coding technology starting next year.

Instead of expensive and intrusive equipment, its facial coding method uses readily available webcams to record, measure and plot in real time how viewers emotionally respond to the ad as its story unravels – reactions that a Filipino consumer can’t easily articulate via traditional survey alone.

“Yes, it is an experiment we are currently doing and testing mobile with facial coding is a reality,” Mitra shared with Marketing when asked if the tool can use the front facing cameras in today’s smartphones for data gathering.

“This is a big venture and imperative for us this 2014,” he adds, adding that they are currently creating a data base of case studies.

Why it’s pays to be emotional

Developed in partnership with Affectiva, the technology is incorporated into Link, Millward Brown’s existing copy testing solution and in its current version can only analyze mainly TV spots or online videos.

But since it’s a research tool based on human emotion, a virtually untapped data point by the industry, Mitra said that its possible applications is as varied as people’s emotions.

“People don’t remember ads. Advertising create memories about brands. There is so much rationalizing going out there with brands saying they are the biggest or is 10% more effective. The thing is emotions have the power of making that connection.”

Mitra said the tool is most useful for creatives who spend days developing good copy only to see their work scrapped, or worse missing their client KPIs.

With the ability to see whether audiences are smiling, confused, hooked or even disgusted in specific parts of their campaign, creative directors and copywriters can make the necessarily tweaks to optimize its emotional impact before going live, minimizing possible additional ad spend.

This Philippine first in ad copy testing was started by Millward Brown this year and Mitra said that the pilot has been stellar. By year end, Millward Brown is expecting to complete around 100 ads analyzed via Link.

One bright spot Millard Brown’s updated Link tool can be used is in out-of-home advertising, which have long sought for better alternatives to measure effectiveness.

“The potential is very high [for OOH]. The mechanism is very straight forward. We record the facial expressions and from there create benchmarks," Mitra explained, without confirming if Millard Brown have concrete plans to pursue such a venture.