Super Bowl Research Combines Biometrics and Facial Coding Live to Understand Complex Web of Emotions in Advertising

On February 12, 2014
indexThe Super Bowl has turned into a platform for more complex emotions. Innerscope study, in partnership with Emotient, finds that ads that succeed seek to make more personal connection.
Innerscope Research, one of the leaders in integrated consumer neuroscience, last week announced the results of its 7th annual study of Super Bowl advertising. The study, which took place in part at sites in Boston and New York, reinforced the need for technologies to understand the complex web of emotions in advertising to find ways to break through. Innerscope found that a game once dominated with ads focused on simple themes, such as cheap humor and sex appeal, has turned into a platform for developing more complex stories and emotions and brands that took audiences on an emotional journey – such as Cheerios, Chevrolet, Budweiser and Hyundai – delivered some of the highest moments of emotional engagement.

There were some tried and true creative elements that engaged such as using humor and celebrities to generate an emotional response,” said Dr. Carl Marci, Co-Founder and Chief Scientist of Innerscope Research. “However, there were some novelties and new emotional themes that emerged as viewers engaged with brands that focused on making a personal connection.

Innerscope biometrically monitored 80 participants using state of the art technology to capture fluctuations in heart rate, skin conductance, and breathing patterns across two locations: the company’s Media Lab and facilities in Boston and the Time Warner Medialab in New York. In addition, participants were video recorded with Emotient, the leading authority in facial expression recognition and analysis. Participants’ emotional responses from their facial expressions were coded in response to all the advertisements and key moments in the game using Emotient’s automatic emotion recognition software. The software detects and tracks overall positive, negative and neutral sentiments, as well as multiple expressions of primary emotion including joy, surprise, sadness, anger, fear and disgust and more complex expressions important for advertisers including moments of frustration and confusion.
Among Innerscope’s top performing ads was the Wonderful Pistachios’ spot with Stephen Colbert as himself in a “pitch-and-catch” ad that drew smiles from the beginning for the brand. But spots with celebrities in general only comprised two of its top 10 ads. Meanwhile, spots from Cheerios and Hyundai were among those that took audiences on an emotional journey with stories that engaged through family connections. The General Mills Cheerios spot “Gracie”, for example, generated a mixture of emotions. For example, when the father tells his young daughter that they are going to have another baby, participants displayed empathy and sadness. However, there was a quick surge to joy when the young daughter brightly asks for a puppy and engagement ends high on the branding moment. Two other top performers featured more negative emotions as in Chevy’s “Life” tribute to a husband and wife struggling with cancer and the dystopian Square Space that resolves a lonely man’s struggle with a call for a better web experience. This is the ads top of “joy” responses, according to this study:

Top 10 Ads Ranked by “Joy” Response ­
(All Respondents)
1. Wonderful Pistachios: “Stephen Colbert”
2. Honda: “#HugFest” (Bruce Willis)
3. Dannon Oikos: “The Spill”
4. Bud Light: “The Twist”
5. Butterfinger: “#CupTherapy”
6. CarMax: “Slow Clap”
7. Budweiser: “A Hero’s Welcome”
8. Kia: “The Truth” (Matrix)
9. Toyota: “Joyride” (Muppets)
10. Volkswagen: “Wings”

Top 10 Ads Ranked by “Joy” Response ­
(Women Only)
1. Wonderful Pistachios: “Stephen Colbert”
2. CarMax: “Slow Clap”
3. Dannon Oikos: “The Spill”
4. Honda: “#HugFest” (Bruce Willis)
5. Toyota: “Joyride” (Muppets)
6. Kia: “The Truth” (Matrix)
7. Bud Light: “The Twist”
8. Doritos: “Time Machine”
9. Heinz: “Hum”
10. T-Mobile: “#no contract” Part 2 (Tim Tebow)

Top 10 Ads Ranked by “Joy” Response ­
(Men Only)
1. Wonderful Pistachios: “Stephen Colbert” Part 1
2. Honda: “#HugFest” (Bruce Willis)
3. Bud Light: “The Twist”
4. Butterfinger: “#CupTherapy”
5. Budweiser: “A Hero’s Welcome”
6. Doritos: “Cowboy Kid”
7. Dannon Oikos: “The Spill”
8. Volkswagen: “Wings”
9. Fox: Daytona 500 (TV Promo)
10. Coke: “It’s Beautiful”

According to the researchers, VW “Wings” ad is a great example of a double positive pay-off. We see a strong positive Joy response in the elevator and bathroom scenes midway through the commercial, then again a high positive return when it’s suggested that rainbows may appear at the end of the commercial. The joke is received very positively, with the positive reaction successfully carrying over into the end of the ad and display of the VW logo. The Heinz ad, however, reveals a negative carryover into the display of its logo and branding. When the catchy rendition of “If You’re Happy and You Know It” plays during the Heinz ad, the facial expressions are mildly positive, until grandma tries to get the last bit of ketchup and it makes the dreaded sound. That’s when respondent’s reactions turn negative, a mixture of disgust, anger and surprise, and that negative reaction continues into the branding moment (see accompanying respondent image). Danon Oikos “The Spill” is another example of a double positive pay-off ad. The ad begins with minimal positive reaction, and spikes when the yogurt falls onto John Stamos’ lap and the female suggestively raises an eyebrow. We then see a second spike of positivity once the Full House reunion is in full swing and Bob Saget admonishes Stamos that “she wasn’t good for us anyway.”
The results also suggest that many of the top ads were impacted by the lackluster game. The biometric results showed that many of the top ads were in the first half of the game and facial coding clearly showed high levels of frustration and contempt among Broncos’ fans as the game progressed.

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