WPP's Millward Brown is adding facial recognition technology to its commercial testing service to better assess the emotional impact of ads, the company has confirmed.
The ad tester has entered a partnership with Affectiva, which has developed a facial recognition analysis technology called Affdex. Through the partnership, Affdex will be integrated into Millward’s Link ad-copy evaluation system.
The companies said they’ve begun testing the integrated system in multiple international markets. Because it measures moment-by-moment, nonverbal communication, it also works across cultures and geographical boundaries, the firms said.
“Describing feeling in detail is never easy,” stated Graham Page, executive vice president of Millward’s neuroscience practice. “By adding facial expression analysis to Link, brand owners can get at the emotional response that people might not be able to articulate in surveys.”
The companies have been working together since last year when Millward parent Kantar made an investment in Affectiva as part of a nearly $6 million round of financing led by Kantar and investor group Myrian Capital.
The funding was used, in part, to accelerate the development of the Affdex system. "Marketers recognize that emotion drives brand loyalty and purchase decisions,” stated Dave Berman, CEO of Affectiva. “Affdex addresses an enormously challenging problem, understanding how people really feel in order to create products or experiences that are engaging and drive the right response."
Affectiva was founded in 2009 by members of the MIT Media Lab, including co-founders Rosalind Picard, chairman and chief scientist at the firm, and Rana el Kaliouby, chief technology officer. Other investors in the company include the National Science Foundation and the Peder Sager Wallenberg Charitable Trust.
Millward Brown has been one of the leading companies in the ad-testing space for over 30 years. After years of experimentation, it formally launched a neuroscience practice in 2010 to offer clients more advanced testing techniques, including facial recognition systems and methods to measure other physical and emotional responses to ads, such as heightened brain wave activity or body temperature in response to ads.