Ad firms using tools to help them read consumers’ minds

Above, Donna Finigan with the French advertising company Ipsos uses facial coding for neuromarketing technique in Norwalk, Connecticut, which can help track if brands are maintaining their edge over competitors, and make ads more effective by determining what to highlight. (AFP)
Updated 24 December 2017
0

Ad firms using tools to help them read consumers’ minds

NEW YORK: Why did you splurge on that new pair of shoes? Or that pricey smartphone? More and more advertisers are trying to tap into the unconscious to divine the invisible forces that drive those spending decisions.
Using gadgets to track eye movements, computer maps of faces to capture a momentary grin (approval) or squinting (anger), and sensors to measure perspiration or monitor brain activity, companies are mining consumers’ raw emotions for information.
Traditionally, ad firms have measured the success of their campaigns through consumer surveys, but that technique has its limits.
“It’s not that people won’t tell you, they actually can’t tell you why they’re making the decision they’re making,” said Jessica Azoulay, vice president of the market intelligence practice at Isobar, a digital marketing agency.
The new techniques recognize that our purchase decisions are driven by both rational and emotional factors, and reflect research showing the brain takes in information on different levels.
They “enable us to capture many different types of emotions and to be able to profile the emotions that are happening very granularly on a second by second basis,” said Elissa Moses, chief executive of the neuro and behavioral science business at Ipsos, a consultancy and market research firm.
“People won’t be able to tell you that something irritated them in scene three or thrilled them in scene seven, but we’ll know from looking at the facial coding,” Moses said.
The technologies can help track if brands are maintaining their edge over competitors, and make ads more effective by determining what to highlight, for example whether to emphasize the distress of allergy symptoms or the relief of treatment when pitching medications.
And the techniques are being applied to other industries, such as retail, which is experimenting on ways to attract customers in the Amazon era.
“Ultimately there is a dance between the conscious and unconscious,” Moses said, noting that “in order to actually buy a product, you have to make a conscious decision.”
Some of the techniques were first employed in the 1970s, but now are being more widely adopted as equipment has improved.
An eye tracking test uses technology-enhanced glasses with a camera to record what a person is seeing on a television or in a store and read how long the eye settles on a particular cue.
That can be combined with other methods, such as galvanic skin responses with sensors applied to a person’s hand to read perspiration, and electroencephalography (EEG) which reads brain activity through sensors on a person’s head.
The data is used to produce a “heat map” with yellow, orange or red “hotspots” that show where the person’s eye fixated.
Techniques measuring arousal can signal whether an ad stands out amid today’s media avalanche.
Other tests that are becoming more popular seek to shed light on unconscious associations with products or shopping needs.
Johnson & Johnson has tested thousands of consumers about Tylenol pain relief and other over-the-counter products, showing them quick-fire images or words that connote a particular emotion.
Responses are tracked to the tens of milliseconds, said Eric Dolan, associate director for global strategic insights at Johnson & Johnson.
The insights can help determine “whether we want to dig in and reinforce those emotional spaces,” or rethink the marketing to convey a different message, he said.
Tivity Health turned to many of these techniques for its “Silver Sneakers” fitness program for seniors, hiring Isobar to help it devise a marketing strategy based on a psychological profile of potential members.
Isobar had more than 1,000 seniors review a series of rapidly presented images and words about exercise. Based on their clicks, the report showed the population most valued exercise because it made them feel empowered or “ready to go.”
The finding was important as Tivity weighed potential marketing campaigns, including “Living Life Well,” which featured images of age-defying seniors, such as a grandfatherly figure balancing a toddler on his back while doing push-ups.
These ads performed better than an alternative campaign showing groups of smiling seniors together in swim class and in a gym, which emphasized the social aspect of Silver Sneakers.
That campaign appeared to fall flat with seniors who view exercise as a means of staying independent, or who may be intimidated at the thought of immediately exercising in a group.
The results countered Tivity’s assumption that the social aspect of the program was the “key motivating driver for members,” said Elizabeth Rula, who directs research for Tivity Health. “We were a bit surprised.”


Rewriting the future: Editor in Chief Faisal J. Abbas on Arab News’ new leaf

Updated 20 April 2018
0

Rewriting the future: Editor in Chief Faisal J. Abbas on Arab News’ new leaf

  • As a journalist, I don’t think there is any place more interesting in the region than Saudi Arabia: Arab News Editor in Chief
  • Arab News will move away from being seen merely as a 'newspaper' to a whole array of new offerings

On April 1, a tweet went out from the Arab News account: “Arab News — as you know it — will no longer exist! #AprilFoolsDay #WhatChanged.” 

The message was a teaser building up to the  relaunch of the English-language daily following a comprehensive overhaul, described by Editor in Chief Faisal J. Abbas as “The biggest shake-up the paper has had throughout its 43-year history.”

On April 4, the relaunch issue hit the newsstands, with changes also reflected across the digital editions. While the new look and feel of the paper represent a bold departure, many of the shifts have materialized over the past year. In a wide-ranging interview with Communicate magazine, Abbas described the evolution of Arab News since he took the reins in September 2016. 

“We went back to our roots and took the paper back from being a local news outlet to its original positioning as the English voice of the region,” he told the magazine. 

To achieve this, Arab News, which is owned by the Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG), has opened bureaus in London, Dubai and Pakistan and has hired some of the best industry talent, made significant changes to its workflow structure and rewritten its editorial policy.

The changes are all part of a future plan entitled Arab News 2020 to coincide with the paper’s 45th anniversary that year. Key to this is a “digital-first” philosophy which is incorporating more video and social media to serve the title’s expanding demographic in the online sphere, though with print revenues at 90 percent, it won’t be killing its print editions any time soon.  

Instead, the focus is on expansion. “We are moving away from being recognized as merely a “newspaper” to a whole array of digital offerings, events and tailored products,” Abbas said. Examples include the Arab News partnership with YouGov, producing material that “quickly became a reference for the region,” on major events, including polls on lifting the ban on female drivers in Saudi Arabia and a 2017 survey on British attitudes toward the Arab world — cited in the UK Parliament. 

The paper’s metamorphosis coincides neatly with the transformation taking place in Saudi Arabia as the country embraces an ambitious reform program as part of the Vision 2030 which, among other things, is redefining the local media industry. “As a journalist, I don’t think there is any place more interesting in the region than Saudi Arabia,” Abbas said. “We are very lucky to be at the heart of (the) change.”