Smile (And You'll Get The Credit Card Ad)
Apparently Microsoft has tried to patent an advertising system that targets people's emotional states based on their search queries, emails, instant messages, playing of online games -- as well as facial expressions, speech patterns and body movements -- collected by personal digital assistants, smart phones, laptops, PCs and gaming devices.
Microsoft's Kinect, the motion-sensing gaming device for Xbox and Windows, seems like the most obvious data collector, since the application states "that a user who screams or paces back and forth, when observed by Kinect, could be assigned a negative emotional state by a currently hypothetical advertising engine."
Said one Ad Age reader, seemingly very much in the moment, in the comments section: Advertisers are really asking for fists to be put through screens the second they decide a female looks irritated, mad or weepy and they serve up a Midol or Kotex ad...
So, I am not sure which is more troubling: an ad targeting system that doesn't understand the difference between frustration at screwing up a game movement versus someone pissed off at their little brother making snide comments from the sidelines? Or the notion that your laptop, phone or Kinect camera is recording your every expression, regardless of your state of dress, sobriety or choice of companionship -- just so it can serve you an advertisement?
There are already tons of ad targeting systems that claim to be able to deduce your frame of mind based on how you use the Web. Most of them can't -- or if they can, not to the degree they claim will lift sales or awareness. But the arms race continues nevertheless. Not satisfied that your search terms or choice of size and color are truly indicative of your interest in a product or service, now everyone has to check out your face (and the rest of you) to see if it gives up some sublimated desire to consume that cannot otherwise be deduced.
One wonders how an arched eyebrow plays into being slotted into the "in-market auto buyer" segment -- or if that quick nose pick makes you eligible for “business traveler”? But that apparently is not the point. The facial recognition data is to see if you are emotionally "ready" for an ad. According to the Microsoft document (which seems to offer a profound summary of the obvious): "Weight-loss product advertisers may not want their advertisement to appear to users that are very happy. Because, a person that is really happy is less likely to purchase a self-investment product that leverages on his or her shortcomings. But a really happy person may purchase electronic products or vacation packages. No club or party advertisers want to appear when the user is sad or crying. When the user is emotionally sad, advertisements about club parties would not be appropriate and may seem annoying or negative to the user. Online help or technical support advertisers want their advertisements to appear when the user is demonstrating a confused or frustrated emotional state."
If nothing else comes of this, it will launch a new parlor game in which teens and adults saturated by THC and/or Jack perform for the Kinect camera placing bets on what kind of ad they can provoke. The loser has to remove an article of clothing. The game ends when everyone is naked and becomes more preoccupied with each other than gaming the gaming system (and are too hammered to realize the camera is still recording).