Unilever, Coca-Cola Utilize Facial Analysis To Enhance Ad Tests

People-reactingAlmost a year ago, WPP’s commercial testing company Millward Brown added facial recognition and analysis technology to its offering to better assess the emotional impact of ads. It did so through a partnership with Affectiva, a firm that developed a facial coding technique called Affdex.

Now, after a series of trials, major global clients are signing on to the new testing application. Calling it the largest-scale adaptation of facial coding technology in the industry, Millward said two of its largest clients -- Unilever and The Coca-Cola Co. -- will use the technique for all of their advertising testing in 2013.

The technique uses proprietary software to interpret how viewers feel about ads by their facial expressions -- feelings that often are not expressed verbally in respondent surveys. Facial analysis, stated Graham Page, head of Millward’s neuroscience practice, “adds depth to our understanding and builds on our validated metrics to deliver new insights in an easily applied and cost-effective way.”

Millward said it has used facial analysis on over 400 advertising research projects around the world since partnering with Affectiva. It expects to apply the technique to thousands of projects this year.

The testing company cross-analyzes facial analysis with survey responses. The results help marketers craft their ad campaigns with insights about messaging elements, such as emotional triggers, creative devices and product claims.

Millward and Affectiva -- an MIT Media Lab spinoff -- have been working together since 2011, when Millward parent Kantar, the WPP media and market research arm, made an investment in Affectiva as part of a nearly $6 million round of financing led by Kantar and Myrian Capital.

The funding was used partly to accelerate the development of the Affdex system. Millward and Affectiva formalized their partnership early in 2012.

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