OPINION4 March 2013

Why crowdsourced ads still need MR

Opinion Video

Crowdsourcing as a way of defining ad strategy has its advantages. However, market research – particularly the measuring of emotions – has a major role to play in predicting which ads will have the greatest success.

By most accounts, Doritos annual Crash the Super Bowl campaign – in which the public creates and picks the ad to be shown during the US’s single biggest domestic sporting event – was another great success. Doritos didn’t have to pay for the ideas or their execution. The general public watched the ads millions of times. The media covered it all for free.

Yet the chosen ad, Fashionista Daddy (see below) fell short of the campaign’s stated goal: to break into the top three of USA Today’s Ad Meter.

So while the ad itself was fun, it didn’t help the brand as much as it could have. Using contests is a wonderful way to engage the public, but no one should confuse crowdsourcing with genuine market research. Just a dash of MR would have shown Doritos that sharp gender differences in the perception of Fashionista Daddy would hurt its performance – and not just with USA Today.

Emotional Response to Fashionista Daddy Infographic

Click to enlarge

Fashionista Daddy worked well for women, but confused male viewers when it showed a father dressing in drag. Male engagement recovered, but not enough to overcome the confusion. The second-ranked Doritos ad, Goat 4 Sale, suffered a similar drop in engagement when its humour darkened, although it remained popular among females 18-24, who dominate social media.

How emotion measurement predicted ad success
We learned this well in advance of the game – as well as successfully predicting which ad would be chosen – by exposing panellists to the five nominated Doritos ads and asking technology company Realeyes to analyse their emotional reactions. Realeyes uses webcams to measure people’s facial expressions, determining exactly when viewers become angry, surprised, happy and so on. We knew that Fashionista Daddy and Goat 4 Sale engaged viewers more than the other Doritos finalists, yet the engagement was much lower – by as much as 20 percentage points – than the best-performing ads Realeyes tested during the 2012 Olympics.

In his bestselling book Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman reinforced the importance of endings. One group of patients studied had colonoscopies with minimal anaesthesia that lasted four to eight minutes, and ended just after the peak moments of pain. The second group underwent the same procedure but for around 25 minutes – long past the peak moment of pain and where later moments of pain were much smaller. Although the second group had to endure much more time in pain, they rated their experience significantly better than the first group. Why? Because they found the decline in pain, the ending, comparatively pleasant. Does that mean we should all request extra-long colonoscopies? No. But it does reinforce that advertisers should pay close attention to endings.

The best ads tend to build engagement and enjoyment steadily and peak at the end, leaving viewers with a positive feeling about the brand. That’s what the Realeyes analysis showed happened with Brotherhood, the Budweiser ad that took top honours from USA Today and others.

It’s not about finding the best, but what works best
For all the coverage of which ads ‘won’, a more important question was ignored: did the winning ads actually help their brands?

We ran a test during a recent episode of one of TV’s most popular sitcoms, The Big Bang Theory. In this case we were looking to find out which ads were memorable and aided brand recall. By sending surveys to viewers’ mobile phones, we learned that almost 25% of Big Bang Theory viewers skipped over ads using a DVR or DVR-like device. Of the 75% who did watch the ads, only 45% found them sufficiently engaging to recall any of them. Only 32% of those who “vaguely found an ad memorable or engaging” were able to recall a specific ad without assistance.

The good news for advertisers is that of the 32% who did vaguely find some ads engaging, 75% were able to remember the brand name. Most ( 80%) of those who found an ad memorable or engaging said they would discuss the ad with others. Non-engaging ads had no impact on subsequent behavioural change. 

Working out which ads are the most engaging, memorable and assist in brand recall before the expense of a prime-time airing is crucial, particularly if you’re paying £2.5m to run it – as in the case of the Super Bowl.

Carol Haney is vice president of product marketing at Toluna


11 years ago

What a great piece. And, what a beautiful ad about a horse, I mean Budweiser.

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11 years ago

Really interesting Carol, thanks! Given your interest, I think that you (and the other readers here) would be really interested in some recent research that I have come across that theorizes about crowds and such similar phenomena. It's called "The Theory of Crowd Capital" and you can download it here if you're interested. http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2193115 In my view it provides a powerful, yet simple model, getting to the heart of the matter. Enjoy!

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11 years ago

You're right, we should probably run crowd sourced ads through the market research filter to scrub out any speck of interest they had in them too. Your so called science, in no way helps people write better endings, but often serves to confuse the ad and turn it into schlock. Mostly because the general public usually ask to see things they've seen before, not what they haven't seen which will actually entertain with a surprise. The public will always ask for the clichéd ending.

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