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Mood Tracking & Emotional Advertising: What Does the Future Hold

The term ‘emotional targeting’ has been around the digital marketing world for a few years now, although the idea is nothing new. Emotional targeting was around in a ‘Mad Men’ sort of way for decades before digital marketing exploded. But emotional targeting then and now are different beasts.

There are two ways to look at emotional targeting, the first and more traditional method is to create an ad that ignites a strong emotional response from a consumer which will drive them to take action, whether that’s buying something, sharing, or donating. Emotional advertising is incredibly popular because as studies show, we often rely on our emotions to make purchasing decisions, rather than facts and information. A great example of this is Oxfam, whose ads often tear at our heartstrings, encouraging us to make a difference.

As technology progressed, advertising has developed ways to not just ignite emotional responses but to track them.  Affectiva, is a technology company that has created emotion recognition software that can analyse a user’s facial expressions to determine how they are feeling.

Currently, the technology is used by advertisers and media agents to determine the effect their current advertising is having on the end consumer. But, what if we could tailor ads based on someone’s current emotions?

Well, technically the technology already exists. Earlier this year, Facebook was put under scrutiny when it came to light that they were collecting data that would allow advertisers to target emotionally vulnerable people as young as 14 in Australia. Facebook had been collecting data points from items such as post, pictures, and reactions to determine the emotional state its younger users.

A Facebook spokesperson commented on the leaked research stating, “Facebook does not offer tools to target people based on their emotional state. The analysis done by an Australian researcher was intended to help marketers understand how people express themselves on Facebook.”

So where is this technology and digital advertising heading?

Where It’s Headed

Facial Recognition: Some brands have been quick to try new developments such as eye tracking in an attempt to overcome language biases or lack of clarity.  The drawback here is that this method requires consent – how many people will actually want to be tracked via their webcam by an advertiser? This runs the risk of becoming too invasive. The other issue with facial recognition is that it only gives an initial impression – it’s a partial picture that must be taken with the whole to get an accurate understanding of the customer’s emotional intent.

Wearables and Biometric Data: Watches, bracelets and other tracking devices that detect things like heart rate, and blood pressure – which all change according to our mood – are becoming increasingly attractive to advertisers. Soon, biometric data may be behind all our technologies.

Advertisers are eyeing the possibility of measuring blood alcohol levels and blood sugar. What could this information be used for in an emotional advertising context? Advertisers could deliver restaurant ads when blood sugar is low and a craving hits, or send you an ad suggesting a brand of beer after detecting you had a drink. This can be taken one step further when combined with location data; a food ad would be served for a nearby restaurant when the device detected hunger or that a certain span of time without eating had passed.

Biometric data was used at Wimbledon when Jaguar teamed up with Mindshare to capture spectator’s emotions. The data was collected through cuffs and atmospheric sensors to track global sentiment on Facebook, then shared via social media. This data could be used to target the crowd with ads that align with the emotional state being fed through the sensors.

Video and Voice: Brands that focused on consumers who had the greatest likelihood of emotional engagement saw the most uplift in conversion and purchase intent. With the recent explosion of video advertising, marketers are keen to tap into emotional targeting across this new channel. New Balance targeted viewers in Japan with technology that determined which users were most likely to engage with their videos. The brand saw a 113% increase in campaign completion.  Video has a high rate of engagement, if brands and advertisers better understood, and implemented emotional data from video views, they would see significant increases in conversions.

Voice Search has also recently surged in popularity and advertisers have discovered that due to the greater length, and casual nature of voice search queries, it could often indicate the emotion behind the request. As voice search becomes more adept at picking up on natural speech, the emotional intent will become clearer, enabling advertisers to serve ads/suggest items based on these emotional cues. This platform is still in its infancy so we won’t be seeing anything revolutionary with voice search and emotional targeting for a while.


Emotional targeting has not yet reached its full potential, but it has experienced a resurgence as newer, better technology has evolved to make it one of the most lucrative methods for converting browsers into buyers. Knowing your customer emotionally will always be more lucrative than guess work marketing. Purchases are often made after price comparison, and careful consideration, but marketers can go one step further by building brand loyalties and increasing conversions by developing a strong emotional connection.

The Power of Voice…Search

This year, home voice assistants have created a stir amongst technology enthusiasts. Voice search, the main feature behind home voice assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, is poised to be the technology of the year.

Technically, voice search isn’t “new”. Apple’s Siri was introduced on the iPhone in October 2011, though initial responses were lukewarm. Users found the system clunky and difficult to navigate without screaming into their phones like lunatics. Fast forward five years, and voice search has vastly improved. Far more sophisticated than the original versions, you are no longer confined to weather updates, or finding the nearest Starbucks.  

Language naturalisation is now an integral component of voice search, making everyday speech patterns easily understandable. It’s come such a long way from Siri’s heyday. Now there are devices that can recognise snippets of lyrics to find the song you want to hear, order your favourite takeaway, or control the lights in your house, and in the case of the Amazon Echo, it will even play rock, paper, scissors with you.

The latest voice search devices are inserting themselves into daily activities in useful and meaningful ways. But will they ever move from ‘nice-to-haves’ to ‘must-have’ devices? What are the challenges they pose not only for the digital industry, but for brands?

The Unknown

It is predicted that by 2018, 30% of all interactions with devices will be voice based. This is partly due to the continued improvements in quality that will make it easier for users to voice search, taking full advantage of being able to speak four times faster than they can type.

Marketers have a challenge ahead of them, as voice search continues to enhance the way users interact with the everyday world. There are so many unknowns for how this technology will unfold, but one thing is certain, this is far more than a passing fad. Whilst it may not happen in 2017, it is only a matter of time before Google, Amazon, and Apple find a way to monetise their voice search technologies.

So, what will that look like?

Websites are already seeing a shift towards longer tail keywords, as users speak more words than they would type into a search bar. For website owners, this means SEO will need to be adjusted to these changes.

But in today’s push for mobile-first digital advertising strategies, we need to ask ourselves if we will see a time when voice-first strategies dominate boardroom conversations. Will bid modifiers for voice sit beside those of desktop, tablet and mobile in our paid search activity?

In a world of monetised voice search, the industry will have to evolve quickly to keep up. Search query analysis will pose an interesting challenge as we try to make sense of the data from an array of dialects, and languages. How will we be able to measure results? Will we need to hire CRO specialists specifically for voice searches?

There are far more questions than answers at the moment, but if Amazon Echo shows us anything, it is that there is a future for voice search purchasing, and with purchasing capabilities comes the desire to advertise and get ahead of the competition.

The Future

Within the last six months alone, voice search use has increased by 41%.   Whilst at the moment users tend to be older adopters, men between age 36-66 with a median household income of over $100,000 we can expect to see this continue to grow over the next year. Due to the fact that voice search devices are still relatively new to the market, it is hard to say what the long term implications for marketing will be. But, I think it is safe to say that there is a future for voice search advertising.