TV and Online Video Ads

We can track the emotional response while a viewer is watching an ad second-by-second. We can identify a range of subtle emotions, but many ads don’t aim to provoke emotions like humour or sadness. The aim is to keep the viewer engaged, or even better provoke Active Engagement when we see movement and signs of thinking (leaning forward, or tilting the head). It’s impossible to be really interested in something and not show it through bodily energy being activated. A key metric for success is whether the ad kept the attention over 30 or 60 seconds. Our measure of Disengagement (when the viewer looks away from the screen, even for less than a second) is critical in measuring the success of an ad.


When testing mock-ups of packaging, body language provides invaluable clues as to how consumers will respond to the different packaging in the real world. We can observe how the person handles the different packaging options. Do they look closely at the object for more than a second or two? How close do they hold it to their body? Is it held in both hands, or at a distance with one hand? When they place it down is it nearby within eye shot, or further away out of sight? These bodily responses, done nonconsciously, tell us much more about how attractive an object is to the consumer. If it’s a case of unboxing we can observe the process, noting surprise, pleasure, frustration and even anticipation.

Versatile and Adaptable Testing

Because no special setup, technology, or conditions are required, we are able to capture responses in all situations, whether someone is looking at their smartphone, scanning shelves in the supermarket, or watching a film in an auditorium. All that is required is reasonably good quality footage of the face and to have a view of where their eyes are looking.  For video ads we can sync reactions second-by-second using the audio, when testing static material we rely on a verbal cue from the interviewer when showing each item.
In many cases, video footage contains people simply talking about a brand or a service experience. In non-verbal testing, the respondent does not have to say they don’t enjoy using a busy department store or queuing at a pharmacy – we can literally see the emotions as they describe what they did. We humans are accustomed to providing narratives of what we did,  but not moment-by-moment accounts of how we felt in situations.
Verbal accounts of our emotions are, of course, influenced by what is acceptable, expected or tactful. In cases when respondents tell us they love a brand, for example, non-verbal cues tell us whether there is real feeling behind the verbal utterances, helping us to identify, not only preferences and negative and positive comments, but the strength of feeling behind them.
Non-verbal cues represent a precise measure of whatever we are testing, whether it’s the ease of use of a website, how rewarding a TV ad is to watch, how well a brand catches our attention. The metrics from the data can be analysed and presented in a powerfully engaging way to complement verbal data.

UX Testing

When a consumer is clicking around  a web page we can pick up fleeting emotions at each second of the journey – from moments of puzzlement, interest, even uncertainty and intrigue. These feelings are too subtle and fleeting to be accessed by the respondent and related to us verbally as the respondent navigates the website. Tracking the emotional  ‘journey’ on a website enables us to identify precisely those fleeting moments where the user is puzzled, uncertain or conversely show pleasure and satisfaction in successful navigation.


As with a website, the gaming experience lends itself to capturing short bursts of emotion during the gameplay, rather than relying on post-play recollections, or the ability to provide a narrative during play. As an alternative to using a game prototype we can create and test a video game walkthrough to capture responses to the scenarios and characters in the game.

Marketing Communications

A key tool in testing marketing material is Active Engagement. When shown for 2 or 3 seconds, does the image or proposition grab attention? We can very quickly test multiple versions of taglines, or logos, in this way. Do they catch the eye, or more accurately catch the nonconscious brain. More questions will then tell us why they were eye-catching and engaging.  In the real world where a brand must grab attention, this test is very valuable. We can get a positive, considered response in a discussion, but will it work out on the supermarket shelves or on the website?
We are not restricted to finished art work in non-verbal testing.  It’s helpful to disaggregate a static ad, for example, to test separate images and words at an early stage in the creative development.