Media: Double Standards - Measuring an ad's strength is an emotional task

Stephen Phillips and Orlando Wood discuss the best ways to measure viewers' emotions, the tools of their trade and why everyone can understand a heartbeat.

ORLANDO WOOD - INSIGHT DIRECTOR, BRAINJUICER

- What emotions need to be measured when it comes to advertising?

Any sensitive measure of emotion needs to be instinctive and universal. FaceTrace, our tool for measuring emotion, uses pictures of a real person in the seven states of emotion that the psychologist Paul Ekman has proven to be universally expressed, regardless of race or culture. Happiness, fear, disgust, anger, surprise, contempt and sadness are primary human emotions hard-wired within each of us for our survival - each has its own purpose. These are the emotions to measure.

- What is more important - testing whether an ad will generate a buzz or if the emotion it instils matches the brand's message?

A validation exercise we conducted using IPA effectiveness data reveals that effective message delivery can generate very large business effects but only at high levels of spend, whereas highly emotional ads deliver very large business effects at very low levels of spend. For maximum ROI, focus on an emotional response but use it as a vehicle for your brand message.

- How do you ensure that a tool that measures emotions actually captures emotion rather than a reaction that's been rationalised?

We gauge emotional response immediately after showing the ad, simply by asking people to select from Ekman's seven core emotions or neutral, the face that best expresses how they feel. Faces are a direct route to our emotions, avoiding the distorting lens of cognitive processing. An immediate response and the use of faces captures gut emotions, circumventing rationalisation.

- How do you overcome cultural differences with your measurement tools?

Psychological research has proven these primary emotions to be expressed in exactly the same way across the world. Our own analysis has shown FaceTrace to be much more comparable than standard pre-testing measures in cross-country studies.

- Shouldn't advertisers just trust their ad agencies, rather than investing so much in testing and research?

Traditional ad pre-testing has long been an insurance policy. It ensures that weak ads are not progressed, but it tends to discriminate against highly emotional ads, because it is founded on rational information processing models and measures. Measurement of emotion, when done properly, is likely to give a much better guide to effectiveness and better direction to the creative team.

- How easy is it to predict the success of an ad just by knowing how consumers feel immediately after they've watched it?

Leading pre-testing agencies have long struggled with this and their solution is to shoe-horn an emotional element into their existing information processing models. Emotional response needs to be at the very heart of any advertising measurement model, not an afterthought. It has taken BrainJuicer several years of investment and validation to arrive at a sensitive measure and supporting model that predicts both effectiveness and efficiency.

- How can this research be used to help improve ads?

Knowing that an emotional response is the key to efficiency and effectiveness gives creatives a very different target to aim at and understanding why the audience feels as they do provides feedback they can work with. Our validation work has also shown that the way the emotions build and are resolved within an ad is an important driver of effectiveness, helping creative teams to fine-tune their ads for greater ROI.

STEPHEN PHILLIPS - CHIEF EXECUTIVE AND FOUNDER, SPRING RESEARCH

- What emotions need to be measured when it comes to advertising?

The emotions that someone is feeling! Ads generate various emotions but the same ad can also inspire different emotions within different people. Think of the great Guinness campaigns creating awe, amusement, confusion, annoyance and boredom among different people at different times. We need to understand this, who it is working with and how can we amplify it. Measuring emotion in advertising should be centred on understanding the intensity of emotion and the impact that this has on the messaging.

- What is more important - testing whether an ad will generate a buzz or if the emotion it instils matches the brand's message?

Absolutely the emotion/message connection. In reality, advertising that creates a buzz depends not just on the ad but the person, the context and the product. So going out purely to create buzz is brave and perhaps foolhardy, but not getting an emotional message across is downright criminal. Also, an ad that instils stronger emotion is much more likely to create buzz.

- How do you ensure that a tool that measures emotions actually captures emotion rather than a reaction that's been rationalised?

Too much old-school research does the rationalised bit, asking people the wrong questions in the wrong way. Fortunately, there is now an emerging wave of techniques, including our Emotimeter, that capture gut emotions without the brain having to process things too much. We do this in a very visual and instinctive way. For example, Emotimeter not only uses emoticons but also includes an ECG-style graphic so consumers can explain the strength of the emotion without having to put their feelings into words (and rationalising).

- How do you overcome cultural differences with your measurement tools?

We do this by using visual imagery that transcends nationality, we use an ECG display along with emoticons, one of the few genuinely global ways of easily expressing emotions without language - everybody understands a heartbeat.

- Shouldn't advertisers just trust their ad agencies, rather than investing so much in testing and research?

I still believe 90 per cent of the advertising research budget should be spent informing the creative brief, understanding the target audience and what really makes them tick. Concept research can still help refine and ensure that great ideas really get across.

- How easy is it to predict the success of an ad just by knowing how consumers feel immediately after they've watched it?

We will never able to be 100 per cent accurate but if we know and understand levels of emotional resonance, we will have a better idea of success.

- How can this research be used to help improve ads?

We believe that we have moved to a world where people no longer look to advertising for information but only for emotional engagement. People tend to get information elsewhere. If you can measure emotional impact and what those emotions are (which we believe we can) then you are much more likely to create a great ad.

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