Unilever and Coca-Cola to study emotional reaction to ads with facial coding tools

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Unilever and The Coca-Cola Company have announced plans to use facial coding technology from research agency Millward Brown to understand consumers’ emotional responses to their advertising in 2013. 

According to Millward Brown, it is the largest scale adoption of this non-verbal advertising research system, which has already been used on over 400 advertising research projects around the world.

Unilever will apply facial coding to all its quantitative advertising pre-testing projects, worldwide, in 2013; while The Coca Cola Company has decided to use facial coding in its research for animatic advertising.  

Combined with other clients who are also repeat users, Millward Brown expects to run thousands of emotional measurement projects this year.

The approach, created jointly by Millward Brown and Affectiva, was recently rewarded with the MRS/ASC technology innovation and effectiveness award for 2012.

Graham Page, head of the neuroscience practice at Millward Brown, said: “We’re really excited two of our most forward-thinking clients have chosen to use this leading edge technology at scale. The combination of direct observation of physical responses and viewers’ interpretation of their reactions provides a really powerful view of the way people respond to advertising. It adds real depth to our understanding and builds on our validated metrics to deliver new insights in an easily applied and cost-effective way.” 

The integration of Affectiva’s Affdex Facial Coding software with Millward Brown’s advertising evaluation tool, Link, is claimed to provide clients with powerful recommendations to optimise advertising effectiveness. According to the two companies, the technology is seamlessly integrated, and with the participant’s permission simply records their face while they watch ads within a normal survey environment; automatically interpreting viewers’ emotional and cognitive states, moment by moment.

Results are fully cross-analysed with viewers’ survey responses and delivered within an online dashboard.  

The technique generates novel insights which could not be achieved by either approach in isolation, the companies claim. 

The combined approach allows Millward Brown researchers to provide significantly better recommendations to their clients for optimising ad campaigns.  

For instance, the data can be used to understand the emotional triggers in a campaign, which creative devices work well in a given market or which claims are most powerful. This allows clients to ensure repeatable success in their marketing communications.

Link and Facial Coding is reported to have tapped into a clear need among advertisers.   

In 2012, Millward Brown and Affectiva conducted over 400 projects, in more than 40 countries, primarily with Fortune 500 companies.  

With experts around the world, Millward Brown said its neuroscience practice offers solutions based on cognitive science that are integrated into existing survey research tools to provide unique and valuable insights.