i3 | August 13, 2019

Measuring up with Biometrics

Gary Arlen

Television’s quest for ratings has gone far beyond the numbers. Throughout the ad research sectors, there’s intense focus on new dimensions of viewer analytics that involve mood and behavioral factors as well as the influences of multiple media consumption.

At the Advertising Research Foundation’s (ARF) Audience x Science conference, the focus was on cross-platform evaluations and measurement techniques that fit into the evolving media landscape with its shifting media consumption patterns and preferences.

ARF President and CEO Scott McDonald cited developments intended to improve marketers’ and producers’ understanding of “behavioral data streams” and content recognition. He said, “We still need to build better consensus on the core metrics,” but the media research industry is “making progress” in integrating data from multiple streams.

A Deeper Dive

Almost simultaneous with the focus on new data science research, the Interactive Advertising Bureau issued its annual report about online and multiple media marketing. Among its findings: “contextual relevance” is by far audiences’ favorite relationship. That means viewers want ads to match the content they’re watching (such as a supermarket commercial during a cooking show).

Analysts agree that new media requires new approaches to measurement. “The advertising and media businesses have been adopting advanced applications of data science for audience targeting and measuring outcomes to plan, activate, optimize and post both traditional and digital media marketing channels,” explains Richard Ducey, managing director of BIA Advisory Services, a consultancy focused on media operations. “We still have challenges in cross-platform audience currency and campaign optimization, but the path ahead clearly will be informed by data-driven models by both media and buyers.”

Gauging Emotions

Several companies are developing emotion measurement to monitor how a curl of a lip, laugh lines around eyes or other facial characteristics demonstrate a viewer’s feelings about what he or she is seeing.

Among this new breed of researchers is Spark Neuro, a company that uses a combination of electroencephalography (to read brain activity), galvanic skin response (to read emotional activation through skin conductance), facial coding (for microfacial expressions) and eye tracking (to understand engagement through visual patterns). Its clients include Universal, Paramount, NBC, Hulu and Fortune 500 advertisers.

These biometric and neuro-measurements “provide the most accurate measure,” explains Spark Neuro CEO and Founder Spencer Gerrol. “We also mix in measures of subconscious decision-making” to identify the emotions triggered by what viewers see but also “the ‘why’ behind them.” He said Spark Neuro is “scanning over 100 brains per day and growing.”

Among the findings, as part of a case study for NBC and its Telemundo unit, was the differences in the ways bilingual Hispanic audiences respond when watching TV in English versus in Spanish. During a World Cup telecast, Hispanics who watched the soccer match with a Spanish language announcer had a far greater engagement in the game.

“In Spanish they spent 15% of game time with emotional intensity above six out of 10 (a significant threshold for high emotion),” Gerrol said. “In English, they only spent 3% of the time above six. This had a lot to do with the excitement of the announcers yelling in Spanish, which transferred into audience reactions.”

He pointed out the engagement “bled over into how the audience responded to the ads during the games.” About 75% of ads had greater emotional engagement in Spanish than in English. Gerrol contends this was “not because the ads were any better, but rather because the excitement of the game transferred to heightened involvement during the viewing experience.”

“We believe neuroanalytics will help propel marketing into the future,” Gerrol contends. “This data is crucial for brands and agencies.”

And its why researchers are looking for ways to evaluate audience responses beyond the raw, traditional numbers of legacy ratings systems.

July/August 2019 Issue Cover

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