Millward Brown reports increase in facial coding studies and boost in technology to optimise advertising campaigns


Millward Brown, a global leader in brand, media and communications research, reports it has carried out more than 3,000 facial coding studies globally (166 in the UK) over the last year, an annual growth rate of 700%.

The world’s largest provider of neuromarketing solutions also announced that Affectiva’s Affdex facial coding technology is now included as standard in Link, its award-winning copytesting solution, claimed to expand its ability to optimise advertising.

Millward Brown and Affectiva first partnered to offer the service to brands in 2012. Today’s announcement means all Link studies will integrate automatic classification of moment-by-moment facial responses to adverts with viewers’ verbal responses.

 It will also enable marketers to:

  • more quickly identify branding moments and cues that did or did not work well
  • pinpoint the emotional power of ads that can be difficult to explain in detail with  survey responses
  • improve the ability of Link to predict sales effects with even more accuracy by picking up important information in respondents’ instinctive responses (such as frowns, smiles or eyebrow movement) that complements the survey data

Graham Page, head of Millward Brown’s consumer neuroscience practice, said: “We are seeing an explosion in the use of facial coding research by brands from more than 60 countries around the world. By integrating this technology with our established survey based research we are able to deliver a level of emotional insight simply not achieved by either approach alone. It’s been interesting to see that measuring people’s facial expressions in response to an ad seems to be able to capture subtle negative responses that are not necessarily reported elsewhere in Link but which end up being really important to the ad’s success in-market.

“The challenge with neuromarketing to date is that it has not been able to operate at the scale and price point that are necessary in the day-to-day market research world. By including facial coding with Link we’re able to make neuromarketing scalable for the first time.”

Page points to companies like Kellogg’s UK and Unilever who have already adopted facial coding for advertising pre-test research.

Global brand director for creative development at Millward Brown, Daren Poole, said: “The addition of facial coding to Link, along with new measures to evaluate the potential of advertising to build long-term equity, gives us and marketers a solution that is unrivalled in terms of its scope”. 

Link has been used on more than 100,000 adverts (in finished and unfinished form) since its inception. Around 10,000 new Link studies are conducted every year. The inclusion of facial coding measurements in Link as standard will make it the most widely used neuromarketing tool globally, regularly used by the world’s biggest advertisers.