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‘Measurable EQ’: Where science meets art in video ads

Where science meets art in the form of “measurable EQ” that helps test video content

What is the role of emotional intelligence (EQ) in the development, execution and measurement of creative advertising? It’s still the most significant driving force behind 47% of the sales lift attributed to advertising overall, according to a Nielsen study. To maximize the impact of that creative, brands and agencies are in need of data to evaluate its impact and optimize campaigns.

With the pandemic changing the marketing landscape and the dramatic reduction in physical footfall, many brands are using long-form video content as a primary communications tool. A key challenge creatives face is identifying the most impactful parts of that video content and turning it into a 30- or even 15-second ad. This is where science meets art in the form of “measurable EQ” that helps test video content and identify the more emotionally engaging scenes.

This was the subject of a presentation at The Drum’s Creative Transformation Festival, ‘The art, science and brilliance of engaging video content’, featuring Rebecca Waring, vice-president insights & solutions, Unruly and Les Seifer, vice-president, head of creative, Tremor International / Unruly. The duo based the session on their client The Sun newspaper and its work for the Help for Heroes charity to demonstrate how EQ informs specific creative executions. They also demonstrated the data analysis process behind such decision-making.

For its 50th birthday, The Sun had asked readers to nominate good causes to receive £1m worth of donations. To inspire nominations, it launched a campaign highlighting stories about their readers: ordinary people doing extraordinary things. The Sun’s video team created long-form branded content to be hosted on its owned and operated sites and social media profiles.

These videos were not suitable to be distributed as ads; the length of the video meant there would be a drop off. Few viewers would reach the second half of the video, which contained the branding message and call to action. However, a key campaign KPI was to drive action in the form of nominations.

“There's a clear pattern showing that while longer videos tend to be better at driving emotional response and brand favorability, shorter videos are more suited to driving follow up,” said Waring. “We had to turn these videos into short-form versions focused on inspiring viewers to nominate their heroes - while maintaining the emotional impact and warmth created by the originals. They also had to be recognizable as The Sun outside of The Sun branded media.”

The three and half minute video featured Derek, a military amputee, and Lydia, who lost her legs to meningitis at two years old, telling their emotionally-charged stories. How could it retain the powerful effect of these stories, plus incorporate The Sun branding and a clear call to action within a 30-second ad? Unruly had worked with the renowned planner, Peter Field, to prove the link between the emotional metrics in EQ, and the brand and business success measured by the IPA. The resulting methodology captures emotional response holistically, using facial coding that picks up on viewers’ immediate, unconscious response to video content as they watch it. Survey methodology then records their more considered, rational response after the video has finished.

In The Sun’s video the top emotions captured by EQ were inspiration, pride and warmth, which Waring described as “off the chart compared to the UK norm”. She explained that by adding this data into the key emotions, “it gives you a clear path forward to improving the video. We know which emotions are already present, and therefore have the most potential. It’s just a question of dialing up those specific emotions using the insight from viewers’ verbatim responses and facial coding.”

These responses praised the content for highlighting the extraordinary actions of real people; they said that it made them feel inspired. The only negative being “length” and that it “felt like an ad for Help for Heroes not The Sun”. Facial coding recorded the intensity of smiles. This showed little engagement at first and much more when Lydia was shown as a little girl, or when she and Derek appeared together. The other facial tracking was for concentration, which can be both positive and negative. Waring says the trick is to aim for lower concentration: “We don't have time to take viewers on an emotional roller coaster, we just show the key elements that are instantly recognizable.”

There were three clear recommendations for Seifer’s in-house creative studio, Truly: simplify the back story, show interaction between characters and emphasize both The Sun’s branding and its call to action. “We call this service the EQ creative optimizer,” he said. “We look at the recommendations from the EQ match report and turn them into video edits that will boost performance so that it has the desired emotional impact and compensates for any shortcomings. This is where art meets science.”

“The scenes we included have peak emotional reactions and allowed us to tell the same story in a much shorter timeframe,” Seifer continued. Text and branded overlays and an end card added branding and a call to action. The result, he says, was that the cut-downs achieved six times the emotional response of the originals and resulted in 3,000 nominations.

Waring stressed that EQ insights can be used at several stages of a campaign lifecycle from strategy to video editing - but The Sun video was not typical.

“It was far longer (than usual) and unusually emotive,” but, she concluded: “brands in less engaging categories, or which are producing a more product or sales-led video need to be just as aware of viewers’ emotional responses. They could benefit equally or even more from going through this process.” Art meets science indeed.

You can watch the full session from CT Fest on-demand here.

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