Building better Super Bowl ads by watching you watch them

A 3-year-old company uses technology from MIT’s Media Lab and applies it to ad testing. Try it out yourself with your webcam right here.

Welcome to the future of advertising, where the wisdom of spending a reported $4 million for a 30-second spot in the Super Bowl doesn’t have to be left to the imagination of an ad agency’s creative team and the honesty of focus groups.

When you turn on the the Super Bowl tomorrow and watch that game within the game — the ads — there’s a good chance that at least several of those pieces have been tested using Affectiva’s tools, which are being used by both Coca-Cola and Unilever, which owns brands ranging from Dove soap to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

Using a Web camera and with a user’s permission (usually commissioned by an ad agency or research firm), Affectiva monitors a person’s expressions while watching an ad.

Affectiva provides a topline measurement on a scale from 1 to 10 on something the company calls an Affdex score. That’s a combination of involvement, a “feel good” index, and a “minus metric.” Behind that, reaction over the length of the ad is monitored and charted. When did someone smile during the ad? When did they frown? When did they drift? It’s all tracked and produced on tables.

Affectiva was founded in 2009 and is based on technology created at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab. The technology was originally intended to work with people who have autism. Because people with autism may have difficulty displaying emotional reactions, co-founders Rana el Kaliouby and Rosalind Picard created a mathematical model for monitoring hard-to-perceive changes in their expressions.

“I personally think it could be a standard for advertising,” said Stephanie Tilenius, an executive-in-residence at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins. Kleiner was part of a $12 million Series C funding round announced in August. The company was also a big attention-grabber at last month’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

If you have a Webcam on your computer, you can run through the Affectiva demonstration yourself right here. You can also test a goat-related ad from Doritos (really, it kind of works), a Hyundai ad with a “don’t tell mom” theme, and an already somewhat controversial ad from Volkswagen in which lots of people whom you wouldn’t expect to have Jamaican accents sound a lot like Jimmy Cliff.

Read more at : CNET