What marketers really want is to literally see and feel what their customers and potential customers are seeing and feeling.
Today, visual engagement analytics platform Sticky takes a step closer to that goal, with the addition of emotional tracking to its eye-tracking services. The New York City-based companys clients include AOL and Orbitz.
Called AdEmotion, the new capability being released as an open beta tracks dozens of points on a face to analyze micro-expressions and other facial movements that can depict emotional states. Test subjects opt in to having their images taken and analyzed through the webcam, remotely or in a lab.
Sticky has previously employed eye tracking to provide insight about where customers attention is directed. It was initially funded by eye-tracking firm Tobii in 2009 to implement the Sweden-based companys infrared eye tracking through a webcam using regular video and still images, and the resultingproduct was launched in 2011.
Eye tracking is useful for letting marketers know exactly where peoples attention is directed on a web page, a product package, a print ad, a point-of-sale installation or any other information that can be shown on a screen.
Sticky president Jeff Bander acknowledged that there are now many companies doing eye tracking, as well as companies like Virool that do Web-based emotion tracking. But, he said, no one else offers both eye tracking and emotional tracking with a self-service dashboard so that marketers can quickly set up their own experiments.
He noted that, previously, Sticky was sending its eye-tracking results to emotion detection companies like Affectiva, to merge the two analyses.
In the initial beta phase of AdEmotion, he said, marketers used it often for A/B testing. Sticky says it doesnt yet have data on whether the new capability makes a difference on bottom-line metrics like sales or brand recall.
With eye tracking, he said, McDonalds was able to determine that an expensive ad it bought for an entire day on the Yahoo home page was not being noticed by most users.
With the addition of emotional tracking, Sticky says it can now show if a user who found a video ad humorous was actually looking at the brands logo at any time in the viewing. If not, theres likely no positive rub-off to the brand.
In this screenshot, the Sticky platform analyzesvisual attention andemotional responses fora FitBit video ad:
I asked if the system took into account the cultural differences in expressive responses between, say, an Asian-American and an Italian-American.
Bandersaid that there might be large expressive differences, but that the emotionsdetectable from multiple micro-expressions based on the work of researcher Paul Ekman did not vary and could not be hidden.
When someone laughs, it doesnt mean theyre happy, he said, adding that AdEmotion will be able to detect the degree to which they are actually displaying joy, surprise, sadness, fear or disgust.
About The AuthorBarry Levine covers marketing technology for Third Door Media. Previously, he covered this space as a Senior Writer for VentureBeat, and he has written about these and other tech subjects for such publications as CMSWire and NewsFactor. He founded and led the web site/unit at PBS station Thirteen/WNET; worked as an online Senior Producer/writer for Viacom; created a successful interactive game, PLAY IT BY EAR: The First CD Game; founded and led an independent film showcase, CENTER SCREEN, based at Harvard and M.I.T.; and served over five years as a consultant to the M.I.T. Media Lab. You can find him at LinkedIn, and on Twitter at xBarryLevine.
(Some images used under license from Shutterstock.com.)