How emotion tracking will revolutionise outdoor branding

Last checked and updated on November 25, 2020

Emotion tracking technology has been one of the hot topics over the course of the past few years, with Apple acquiring Emotient and the likes of Coca-Cola signing a deal with Realeyes. Within the world of advertising, this technology has already been put to great use, helping to assess people’s emotional responses to different adverts.

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The technology works by analysing facial expressions and linking them with emotions. For example, Realeyes has been used during pre-testing for advertising campaigns, allowing marketers to see which parts of ads resonate with viewers and even saving some companies money by allowing them to halt ineffective campaigns.

However, moving forwards, the technology is expected to be used for far more than analysing response to video advertising. In fact, emotion tracking technology is already starting to be used in the field of outdoor advertising and could soon completely revolutionise things like event branding and billboard displays.

How emotion tracking works

Although there are various different types of the technology available, most emotion tracking technology works in much the same way; by monitoring changes to facial expressions. This then allows companies to identify emotional responses in real time. To provide an example, the Realeyes technology can identify the following emotions:

  • Happiness
  • Sadness
  • Confusion
  • Surprise
  • Fear
  • Disgust
  • Anger

Each emotion is monitored on a scale and more than one emotion may be detected at once. For example, somebody may be simultaneously surprised and happy, suggesting they are pleasantly surprised, or they may display signs of confusion and anger, suggesting they are irritated by what they are seeing.

Usage in outdoor environments

While emotion tracking technology has primarily been utilised in the digital world, with a focus on responses to video, it has already started to work its way into the outdoor area. In the United Kingdom, for instance, Ocean Outdoor have started to use the technology to drive advertising outside of Birmingham New Street station.

There, the technology is utilised to pick up on the age and sex of passers by, achieving a staggering 98 percent effectiveness on gender and almost 90 percent effectiveness on age.

This means that advertisers can then target their advertising at specific groups – perhaps only displaying a sports betting advert if the audience is at least 60 percent male, or displaying an edgy hair dye advert only if the audience is more than 70 percent female and 70 percent under the age of 50 – leading to greater efficiency.

Emotion tracking and outdoor branding

So how can this technology revolutionise outdoor branding? Imagine, if you will, that you work with an event company to launch a new product. You have two or three different digital display boards, but notice one of them is generating confusion. You can then pull the display instantly and replace it, limiting the damage.

Likewise, perhaps you are launching a new digital billboard campaign, but you cannot decide between two different slogans. You could, theoretically, launch the campaign with both slogans and use emotion tracking to work out which is more engaging, or surprising, or shocking to passers by. Within a few days, you could settle on one.

“New technology will never replace creativity,” admits Pete Markey, UK Director of Brand Communications and Marketing for Aviva. “We will always need to come up with strong ideas…but the combination of science and art can help us to make sure that we always put effectiveness first.”

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