Facial Coding – Is your TV commercial really engaging your audience?

Consumers are very much guided by their emotions. But getting a deep and cost-efficient understanding of consumers’ emotional engagement with a TV commercial has not been easy so far. Using new technologies however such as Facial Coding on a large number of respondents you can get just that.

What is facial coding?

During a normal web based survey respondents will be asked to share access to their webcams. Tracking facial expressions and using sophisticated software, it is possible to get insights into what the audience actually feels about your content. Facial coding has been around for a few years but advertisers and agencies are only just now really beginning to embrace it.

Learnings from post and pre-tests with Facial coding

The traditional survey based post-testing and tracking of TV spots has for many years been a great tool in evaluating their creative impact and optimizing the media plans. Ad recall, message recall, sender identification and liking are key metrics assessed during these types of surveys. These are conscious evaluations made by the respondents. “Facial coding” brings the unconscious dimension to the table. Together they create new powerful insights that can optimize your ad campaign and save you a lot of money.

There are some very interesting learnings from pre-testing that our media agency clients have highlighted. One is the strong correlation between the level of emotional response and engagement measured with facial coding and the actual ad recall measured in the post-test. This measure of creative impact of the TV spot can help media planners estimate the optimal reach and frequency of the campaign. Those with high engagement need lower media weights to break through the clutter. To get the full benefit, advertisers need to test the spot before the campaign is booked in order to adjust media weights.

Another interesting use is the ability to measure engagement within the first few seconds of the film. This will help advertisers know how suitable the film is for online media where ads can easily be skipped. Finally, the higher the engagement and emotional response, the more likely it is that the content will be shared by the audience.

The future of Media planning and Facial coding

The future of media planning is audience planning and the ability to move media budgets between platforms programmatically as the campaign unfolds. The facial coding method allows you to gauge the creative impact prior to campaign launch or very early on through a live report of respondent engagement. This will allow you to optimize the media weights of the specific spot on the fly and, for example, prolong the campaign at lower media weights or avoid overspending.

The basic rules for data quality still applies

You still need excellent online panels for the facial coding projects. If you go through an agency you should still pay strict attention to who delivers the panels. Make sure the panel quality matches what you would normally require for any other piece of important market research.

How to get started

At Norstat, we try to make it easy for you to be our customer.

  • We offer you to manage the entire data collection process.
  • We work with the major facial coding suppliers on your behalf so you basically just need a film and a target audience to get started.
  • We use our own quality panels for the surveys and we integrate the film and facial coding in the normal web survey. This ensures a seamless experience by respondents.

It also allows you to ask your own questions specific to your target audience and campaign purpose. You can use these as filters in the engagement report of the facial coding process. This would for example allow you to distinguish between the emotional reactions from existing versus potential users of your brand.

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About Tue Meier-Poulsen

Philipp Kemser

Tue is the Managing Director of Norstat Denmark. Feel free to drop him a line at tue.meier.poulsen@norstat.dk.

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