The algorithms calculate average results over hundreds of consumer test subjects. Second-by-second results are offered for dozens of different metrics. But three measures stand out, said Elissa Moses, chief analytics officer at EmSense and a former strategic planner at Grey Worldwide, Royal Philips Electronics and Gillette, where she worked with Meyer: how quickly consumers pay attention to an ad (speed of engagement); how their emotions track positively and negatively throughout the course of the ad; and how they respond to specific branding.
"If viewers don't engage, they aren't going to remember anything," said Moses. "And if they don't engage fairly quickly, it's like walking into the middle of a movie."
The emotional tracking that EmSense captures is frequently a roller coaster of positive and negative feelings "as suspense mounts and drama unfolds in a good story or a funny joke," she added. "The objective is to leave the audience at a higher positive emotional point at the end of the commercial than when they started and to evoke a positive emotional reaction to the product." That makes intuitive sense, she said, but "until now marketers and agencies have not had a tool like this to prove it out."
Although marketers have pondered for years how much time, energy and resources they should devote to measuring emotional responses to their ad messages, recent research suggests they should take the leap. A March 2007 report from a joint task force of the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Advertising Research Foundation concluded that the traditional "think-feel-do model of how advertising works is incorrect," given new insights about the human brain's decision-making processes. "Emotional reactions not only come first, they facilitate memory and influence actions," the report said.
Chip Walker, head of planning at StrawberryFrog, said such research is gaining traction because agencies and clients are increasingly frustrated with traditional forms of testing. "You get a lot of modern rationalizations in the traditional feedback," said Walker, who brought a packaged-goods client to EmSense last year when he was with BBDO. "We've seen a lot of situations where ads don't test well [with traditional techniques], but sales go up when you put them on the air. Conversely, some ads test well, but nothing much happens."
Virgin hooked up with EmSense last year shortly after it launched its new "You rule" ad campaign for contract-free cell phone service, said Joel Kades, vp, strategic planning and consumer insights at Virgin Mobile USA. Virgin had EmSense compare the new ads with its historical work, as well as the work of competitors, said Kades.
Based on the results of the EmSense research, Virgin learned that in moving forward it needs to continue to "build suspense and grab people at the beginning [of a spot] and keep them in to deliver the product message," said Kades. The EmSense method, he added, "helps eliminate a lot of debate you would traditionally have over the results" of verbal responses and how to interpret them.
Jeff Jones, president of Havas' McKinney, which worked with EmSense on evaluating ads for Virgin Mobile USA, said widespread acceptance of the EmSense technique and others like it may depend on how they're positioned in the marketplace.
"This is not a panacea that should replace all the other research," such as focus groups, online surveys and other methods, said Jones. "Rather it should be used as a supplement to other techniques that may also be appropriate, given your problem and category."
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