I’ve seen the future of digital advertising and it’s Emotional AI

Recently, I got a demo of DAIVID, an emotional AI platform from a London-based company that aims to redefine the ad testing process. I got the demo from Ian Forrester, the company’s Founder and CEO, who has worked in the industry for over two decades, leading the research teams at Sony Pictures, Unruly, and Whalar.

Normally, I listen politely to the people giving product demos, ask a couple of skeptical questions, and then place any materials that they give me into what the British call the “round file” and Americans call “File 13.” (You know, the trash can.)

But, this time I interrupted Forrester mid-way through his presentation and blurted out, “I’ve seen the future of digital advertising and it’s Emotional Ai.”

Um, OK.

So, maybe I lost my composure because DAVID takes human panels out of the testing process, which is why traditional pre-testing of video assets is expensive and slow. Instead, the new platform uses a suite of advanced technologies, including facial coding, eye tracking, machine learning, and computer vision to help advertisers optimize the emotional impact of their creative and media strategies.

Or, maybe I dropped my guard because I’d written a column for Search Engine Journal back in June 2018 entitled, “What Is Artificial Emotional Intelligence & How Does Emotion AI Work?” And I’d always wondered why only one-third of the Fortune Global 100, including brands such as Kellogg’s and Mars as well as media companies like CBS, have used Emotional AI to optimize their content and media spend.

Or, maybe I lost my cool because DAIVID’s first client is the global media agency MediaCom, which has signed an EMEA partnership. I know those folks. MediaCom earned the OMCP Agency of Excellence Award in 2016 for their spectacular online marketing exam pass rates. And I’m a member of OMCP’s standards committee and an OMCP certified trainer.

Or, maybe I intuitively understood what Forrester was talking about because we’d met before in February 2013 at Unruly’s corporate headquarters in London. He was the first Insight hire for Unruly, going on to lead a global team that helped brands optimize video creation and distribution, and create several world-first insight products. These included ShareRank, a tool which forecast virality of videos, and EQ, a video testing technique focusing on emotions. And I had reported on the launch of these products – first for Search Engine Watch and then for The SEM Post.

Ian Forrester, Founder and CEO of DAIVID

Or, maybe, just maybe, I had a sudden flash back to June 2011, when I was the instructor of a module entitled, “Evaluating Digital Creative.” It was part of corporate program offered by the Rutgers Center for Management Development in partnership with Johnson & Johnson. DAIVID answers the first five out of the six key questions that my module taught participants to ask:

  1. Am I pre-testing my ads to ensure they properly leverage key strategic drivers?
  2. Am I tailoring my creative based on the ad formats and strategies I plan to use?
  3. Have I evaluated my digital creative in the context of my overall media plan?
  4. Do I understand my audiences and how my messages will resonate with them?
  5. Am I using the right metrics to test my creative and assess its holistic impact?
  6. If I can’t do creative testing, what other tools can help me gauge creative impact?

And, DAIVID makes the sixth question moot, because it delivers advertising research with unprecedented speed and cost-efficiency.

How does it do that?

Well, DAIVID gathers insights by using emotional AI technology to record the attention levels and emotions of participating audiences online. However, Forrester says the future of ad testing is taking human respondents out of the process and plans to reduce the company’s reliance on panels by replacing them with its predictive algorithm sometime in 2022 — significantly lowering the cost and time it takes for brands to measure the impact of their advertising.

The predictive algorithm is being built by layering multiple techniques and technologies to achieve the deepest understanding of the connection between creative devices and video performance. The data points being used to train the algorithm include: eye tracking, campaign metrics, social media stats, and computer vision, while emotional impact is being tracked using facial coding and categorized through the company’s proprietary DAIVID 39 – which was derived from the world’s most advanced academic studies on emotions.


Which academic studies? Ones conducted by the University of California, Berkley; Stanford University, and The Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science at the University of South Australia. Yep, those academic studies.

Forrester said, “Numerous studies have shown the importance creative has in driving campaign outcomes. However, now, with so many assets being created for each campaign across a range of different channels, creative choices are still largely decided by agency hunches.”

He added, “Using significant recent advancements in AI, data science and computer vision, DAIVID will make it possible for advertisers to scale up their creative testing — helping them cope with the ever-evolving challenges of today’s increasingly complex and fragmented digital landscape.”

Put this all together, and I think that I understand why the DAIVID demo triggered such an intense emotional response for me.

And, I’m not the only one who has responded enthusiastically to DAIVID’s platform.

Rob Sherlock, the former CEO at ADK, and Chief Creative Officer at FCB, who is Chairman of DAIVID’s Advisory Board, has said in a press release, “I’m delighted to be part of a team that’s helping to redefine the role of advertising research. The current model is broken, with the vast majority of creative assets being pushed out untested because of time and budget constraints.”

He added, “DAIVID changes that. Harnessing its pioneering emotional AI, DAIVID enables advertisers to measure the effectiveness of their content at scale, giving them the certainty they need that their ever-increasing suite of creative assets will generate attention and pack an emotional punch. It’s ad research for the Programmatic Age.”

MediaCom recently launched Creative Analytics, a new global capability designed to give greater insight into future creative performance across programmatic display, search, social, and video, which will also be first to market with DAIVID.

Tom Saunter, the Global Head of Creative & Media Technologies at MediaCom Creative Systems, said in another press release, ““As an industry we have been primarily focused on media optimization. The incremental gains from tweaking a digital algorithm are nothing compared to the benefits of making a high-quality piece of creative more relevant to its audience.”

He added, “Creative Analytics will be increasingly focused on extracting high quality creative data that tells us what works creatively, what doesn’t, and why. Our AI-assisted methods are already transforming creative and media performance significantly and we’re really excited to add DAIVID’s attention and emotional predictions to provide a completely new source of creative insight for our clients.”

How can your digital marketing team use Emotional AI technology?

Now, if you’re like me, then I’m pretty sure that you’re now asking yourself, “How can my digital advertising team use Emotional AI to understand the connections between creative attributes, emotions, attention, and video metrics?”

Well, let me give you three hypothetical examples. And with Super Bowl LVI coming up this Sunday, I can’t think of a better source of inspiration than the brands that will be paying about $6.5 million for a 30-second spot (excluding production expenses) to reach an estimated 100 million TV viewers during the “Big Game” on NBC. (Some 30-second spots reportedly sold for a record $7 million.)

Virtually all of these ads will be uploaded to YouTube AdBlitz, the premier hub for Super Bowl ads with playlists for the most comedic, dramatic, action-packed, and inspirational spots. According to a Kantar survey, when excluding those that don’t care about sports or don’t plan to watch the Big Game, 72% re-watch at least some football commercials before or after the game.

So, AdBlitz extends the life of Super Bowl campaigns for brands like Amazon, Hyundai, and Budweiser. The YouTube platform allows you to optimize your investment in paid media by activating the virtuous circle that links Owned Media (your video content), Paid Media (paid video advertising) and Earned Media (“free” views obtained when people share the video ads).

According to the YouTube Creator Playbook for Brands, “It is not uncommon to see campaigns generate at least one earned view as a result of every two paid views. And we know the YouTube audience isn’t shy about sharing brand content: Three in four YouTube users agree that ‘If there is a brand I love, I tend to tell everyone about it.’”

But, here’s what YouTube doesn’t tell you, but Nielsen Catalina does: Creative accounts for 56% of advertising effectiveness, and media just 30%. So, creative effectiveness is the single most powerful force multiplier in your arsenal.

In other words, if you produce a TV commercial for the Big Game that isn’t worth re-watching on YouTube or you promote a video ad that isn’t worth sharing, then you aren’t getting the most bang for your bucks.

This is where DAIVID comes in.

Let’s says that you are in charge of brand strategy for Amazon’s Alexa. And your brief asked the agency to create an informative ad that shows Alexa is here to help you get ready for the Big Game no matter how – or where – you’re celebrating this year.

  • For game-day predictions, ask, “Alexa, who’s going to win the Big Game?”
  • For the perfect game-day guacamole, say, “Alexa, add avocados to my shopping list,” or ask, “Alexa, how do I make guacamole?”
  • For more game-day fun, say, “Alexa, tell me a football joke,” or, “Alexa, announce a touchdown.”

But, in a brainstorming session, someone on your creative team says, “Wouldn’t it be amazing if Alexa could read your mind?”

And another member of your team adds, “May we can get Scarlett Johansson and her husband Colin Jost, you know, the host of ‘SNL Weekend Update,’ to put their Alexa game-day routine into action and imagine a world in which their smart home device hears everything they say — and even some of what they think.”

And a third member of your team asks, “What if we made a 90-second spot that imagines Alexa can read their minds, interjecting some paranoia into their relationship. Now, wouldn’t that be funny?”

And, voila, you end up making “Amazon’s Big Game Commercial: Mind Reader.”

Um, OK.

Is Alexa reading minds a good idea? Or, did you just make a Career Damaging Move (CDM)?

Well, when it comes to decision making, just 17% of marketers say data and analytics is their go-to. Instead, 83% rely on gut feel when it comes to making strategic decisions.

So, would you rather set Alexa’s brand strategy based on a deep analysis of brand positioning or just go with your gut?

Well, up to now you didn’t really have much of a choice. But, DAVID can help you:

  • Analyze a large number of videos
  • Understand previous content performance,
  • Conduct a competitive analysis
  • Discover if there is any emotional white space
  • Assess your brand personality
  • See what’s resonating with your target audience.

Now, wouldn’t it be worth your time and money to conduct a few experiments with this product before you need to update your resume and help a different brand prepare for next year’s Super Bowl?

But wait, there’s more!

DAIVID’s flagship video testing tool also helps you with perfecting your final edit and learning for future campaigns.

So, let’s say you’re you need to turn “History of Evolution | IONIQ 5 | Hyundai,” which is 1:22 long, into a 30- or 60-second spot. As the video’s description says, “See Jason Bateman go on an evolutionary journey through time, all leading up to the first-ever Hyundai IONIQ 5. With available two-way charging, adjustable center console and spacious interior it’s fully electric inside and out. This is your journey at its most evolved.”

Well, you could look at the audience retention report in YouTube Analytics, which shows how well different moments of your video held viewers’ attention. This report does provide insight into areas of your video that are working well and opportunities for improvement. But, the audience retention data typically takes 1–2 days to process.

But, it would be useful if you could also check out DAIVID’s outputs, which show:

  • Attention.
  • Emotions.
  • Brand personality.
  • Scene analysis.
  • Brand metrics.
  • Campaign metrics.

YouTube Analytics shows you what viewers do, but Emotional AI explains why they probably did it.

Finally, let’s say you’re working with Anheuser-Busch InBev, which is bringing Budweiser back to the Super Bowl along with some of its newer brands. Budweiser, of course, famously sat out of the game last year after a 37-year stint.

This year, it’s bought a total of four minutes of ad airtime during the Big Game, which is roughly on par with what it’s done in recent Super Bowls. The one that has the best shot at becoming the USA Today Ad Meter winner this year is “A Clydesdale’s Journey | Budweiser Super Bowl 2022.”

Directed by Chloé Zhao, the video’s description says, “This Super Bowl we have one message for America: In the home of the brave, down never means out.

Now, USA Today’s Ad Meter has been conducted every year since 1989, so many marketers don’t question the claim that the annual poll is “the definitive measure of Super Bowl commercials.”

But, its methodology doesn’t measure results along the consumer journey, including brand awareness, consideration, favorability, and purchase intent. And, as David Ogilvy pointed out in 1983, “When I write an advertisement, I don’t want you to tell me that you find it ‘creative.’ I want you to find it so interesting that you buy the product.”

So, which metrics should Budweiser use to decide if it should continue running “A Clydesdale’s Journey” after the Big Game? And, should the nation’s largest brewer continue plugging its new zero-carb Bud Light Next variety with an ad that is expected to make a metaverse reference? Or, should AB InBev continue running ads for Cutwater Spirits, its canned cocktail brand, in addition to its spots for Bud Light Seltzer Hard Soda, Michelob Ultra and Michelob Ultra Organic Seltzer?

Decisions, decisions.

Well, DAIVID can also help you perfect your media plan to optimize your creative performance.

DAIVID’s outputs include:

  • A profile of the ideal audience for each video in your campaign.
  • A profile split by age, gender, income level, number of kids, home ownership, education, marital status, behaviors, and personality types.
  • A selection of the assets to support.

Get it? Got it? Good.

So, what should you do with this information?

Well, I’d urge you to contact Ian Forrester and get your own demo of the new AI-Powered advertising research platform.

I asked him if it was okay to share his contact info and said that would be fine. His email is ian@daivid.co or go to his LinkedIn profile at https://www.linkedin.com/in/ian-forrester-2619b6b/ and send him a message.

And, ask him any skeptical questions that you think I should have asked.

But, what you really need to do is decide for yourself if Emotional AI is the future of digital advertising.

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