23 May, 2023

Taking Ads from Good to Great: Affectiva Emotion AI and the Future of Consumer Research in Advertising

Spun out of MIT Media Lab, Affectiva (acquired by Smart Eye in 2021) pioneered Emotion AI, the deep-learning based software that analyzes human faces to understand nuanced emotional and cognitive states. Affectiva Media Analytics uses emotional ad testing to measure consumer emotional and cognitive responses to brand content, such as ads. It can also be used in entertainment content testing for longer form content, such as TV pilots, videos and movies. As such, it significantly enhances traditional research methods such as surveys or focus groups. 

It is always difficult to tell beforehand how creative work such as ads will be received. Our research partner Kantar found that the return on marketing investment from airing highly creative and effective advertising is four times higher than airing low quality work. That has a huge impact on how far advertising budgets can stretch.

Affectiva’s facial coding AI solutions are used by 90 of the world’s 100 largest advertisers and 26% of Fortune Global 500 companies, to increase their odds of success. The amount of content tested reached all-time highs in 2022, with entertainment content growing particularly strongly. The offering is primarily cloud-based but is also available as a software development kit for direct integration into customers’ products and services. It is designed to be highly automated and self-serve, making it highly scalable, with almost 13.5 million audience videos processed by end of 2022 of which more than 1.6 million in the last year. 

Customers are both end-users directly, such as consumer goods companies, and their research providers. Revenues consist of provisions for cloud based analytical services, license fees for the SDK and subscription revenues for access to APIs.

Case Study: Creativity powered by data 

With a global pandemic, war in Ukraine, and socio – economic unrest around the world, advertisers might think that their ads should reflect this gloom by being more serious and using less humor. But is it effective? 

At Neuromarketing World Forum in 2022, Graham Page, Global Managing Director of Affectiva Media Analytics, presented data suggesting it might not be. The data was collected from Affectiva’s Emotion AI, which measures people’s unfiltered and unbiased reactions to content. 

“We can see that ads are becoming more emotionally engaging, and this is a long-term trend going back several years, but the emotional response they are soliciting is more negative. And that is not due to the troubling times. It is the ads,” says Graham. 

Ads focusing on a problem without a solution might resonate with those already engaged, but are often rejected. Offering solutions, hope and positivity are key to engage with wider audiences, Affectiva found. 

“To reach wider audiences, positivity is key. The same is true when casting under-represented groups. Positive, empathetic stories can resonate more widely than polemics. Adding Emotion AI-led data to the creative process is key to taking campaigns from good to great,” says Graham.


Download the full Smart Eye 2022 Annual Report here, or if you are looking to understand consumer emotional responses to ad content, contact us today to schedule a demo! 

Written by Ashley McManus
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