Wired’s Biometric Super Bowl Ad Winner Is a Geeky Surprise

The results are in from the Wired Biometric Super Bowl Party, and 25 of our readers’ autonomic nervous systems have selected their top 10 advertisements.

The Google ad that had everyone talking after the game got the attention of our party goers as well, but the real winner was a surprise. It turns out our readers are even geekier than we thought.

The study, conducted by Boston-based research firm Innerscope, was held at Wired HQ in San Francisco with participants from across the state and as far away as Sweden. These guinea pigs had their skin conductance, heart rate and movements measured to see how they responded physiologically to the motley assortment of Super Bowl ads.

The company’s algorithms translate those measurements into a single metric they call “engagement.” While the researchers are obviously looking for spikes in people’s excitement — heart rate increases, etc — the best ads also generate consistent body movements and attention to the ad. (Read more about the science in “How Your Biometrics Can Make Super Bowl Ads Better.”)


What’s fun about this technology is that you can see people’s reactions in real time, which you couldn’t with traditional advertising scoring techniques. The downside is it takes some time to crunch the data, which is why you’re reading this now instead of the day after the game. But as the old aphorism goes, slow and data-rich wins the race.

In the videos below, engagement is charted on the graphs, so you can see it moving up and down as the ads roll. On the Innerscope scale, getting up near 90 is impressive. The peak moment they measured was (of course) Tracy Porter’s fourth-quarter interception of Peyton Manning and the long return for a touchdown that followed. It hit over 122 on the engagement scale.

“It may be the highest-ever score for Innerscope and there are some obvious reasons why that might be,” said Carl Marci, a social psychiatrist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Innerscope co-founder.

One funny quirk about this year’s Super Bowl ads: none of them beat the two NBC promotional spots for The Late Show With David Letterman and How I Met Your Mother. If we included them on the commercial list, they would have ranked one and two. Go figure. Maybe all that Conan O’Brien/Jay Leno controversy was good for the late-night talk-show-host business.

In a surprise, the Electronic Arts ad for the upcoming game Dante’s Inferno topped the list. If you needed more evidence that Wired readers are geeky, take the fact that they liked an ad for a videogame better than any of the beer commercials.

There aren’t a lot of noticeable peaks and valleys for this ad, unlike some of the others. People most just stayed tuned in and watched the whole thing.

“Like a movie trailer, the ad is the product,” Marci explained.

But why this ad and why this game, which at least to this writer, seem kind of mediocre?

“With the Dante’s Inferno ad, people probably weren’t thinking ‘This is going to be the greatest game of all time,’ but it would have been very hard for them to ignore,” said Innerscope senior scientist, Caleb Siefert. “Definitely people in that audience are going to have an opinion of the game.”

Coming in at number five, we see Google’s first Super Bowl ad. When it came on, a hush fell over the room as people watched to see how their search engine would make a commercial.

“We didn’t rate Google as the number one ad, but when you look at the trace, it’s absolutely amazing,” Siefert said.

Throughout the commercial, we stay at one time scale quickly progressing through a cute love story between some American dude and a Parisian lady. Then, right at the end, the ad’s time scale speeds up and soon the searcher is looking for information on how to assemble a crib.

“What I loved about the Google ad, it was one of the best stories told,” Marci said. “It’s so tight and hangs together so well and then reminds you of the product that delivered this story so effectively.”

Then, Google’s “branding moment” hits as the words “Search on” come on the screen. People loved it.

“I’m blown away by the slope of the line in the branding moment, how sharply it goes up,” Siefert said.

And finally, we get to the ad in which a Doritos samurai with Doritos nunchuks attacks some unsuspecting faux hipsters who are for some reason eating Doritos in the gym. What you see in the numbers here is a classic joke that works. It starts off kind of fun, lulls you for a minute as the action plays out, and then bam — the punchline. via wired.com