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IntoTheMinds consulting blog
Advice in Data & IT

Emotions detection in advertising: consumers still reluctant to give their data

Advertisers have always been among the most creative professionals; not only on the content part but also in their use of the newest technologies to make their advertising messages more efficient. The use of eye-tracking dates back to decades, whereas billboards on streets can nowadays be equipped with technologies (sensors) to interact with pedestrians.
M&C Saatchi partnered with Clear Channel and Posterscope to launch an artificial intelligence-powered poster campaign. This campaign is not new (July 2015) but recent work by Andrew McStay sheds light on the reaction of customers to this invasive data collection process. M&C Saatchi and partners used a hidden camera associated with microsoft technology to analyze facial expressions of pedestrians and adapt the advertising message.
This use case poses the question of users’ consent, legal aspects behind a hidden data collection process and, importantly, whether or not measuring facial expressions to infer a person’s emotions falls within the scope of personal data collection (and hence of GDPR).

At the CPDP 2017 conference where I met Andrew, he first reminded us that two approaches coexist in the advertising world to measure emotions :

  • in house techniques : facial coding and biofeedback
  • out-of-home techniques : facial coding, voice and biofeedback explored through wearables (see for instance the work of Sensum we reported on last week)

Andrew carried out a rather complex, qualitative and quantitative research, to understand perceptions on the analysis of peoples’ emotions. He surveyed 2068 persons in the UK and gathered qualitative insights from more than 100 experts worldwide.
At CPDP he gave us the results of the survey and they are pretty surprising (at least when you consider that the survey was carried out in the UK where people are usually less sensitive to personal data collection.
The results show that 50% of respondents disagreed with that type of data collection; 33% would agree if data was anonymized.
When results were broken down by age, we find out that 56% of the 16-24 y segment was ok with data collection, but only 13% agreed if a link could be made to with the very person the emotions of whom were measured.


Even in a very open-minded culture like the UK, and even with the younger consumers age segment firms should take data collection processes very seriously and consider anonymization. In any case Andrew McStay’s research shows that firms should first do some market research, understand customers’ expectations, before proceeding with such tests.

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Pierre-Nicolas est Docteur en Marketing et dirige l'agence d'études de marché IntoTheMinds. Ses domaines de prédilection sont le BigData l'e-commerce, le commerce de proximité, l'HoReCa et la logistique. Il est également chercheur en marketing à l'Université Libre de Bruxelles et sert de coach et formateur à plusieurs organisations et institutions publiques. Il peut être contacté par email, Linkedin ou par téléphone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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