BBC uses facial recognition to support content marketing

Sarah Homewood
By Sarah Homewood | 21 January 2016

The BBC's content marketing business Storyworks has tested how consumers actually feel about content-led marketing using facial coding and recognition to ensure the results couldn't lie. It also warns industry not to go down the wrong path as it will damage this type of communication channel.

Launching overnight, the study called ‘The Science of Engagement’ aimed to look at the emotional impact of conent-led marketing by measuring consumers’ “subconscious reaction” to content marketing campaigns on the

Using a sample of 5153 people who read English language international news websites across six key markets - Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, USA, Canada and Germany - the study found 63% of participants think content-led marketing is an innovative way for advertisers to reach audiences.

The study also found 64% of respondents are happy to read content-led marketing so long as it is clear which brand it is presented by and the same number are also happy to read it as long as the content is clearly labelled.

To get the figures, Storyworks focused around three core measurements: an online quantitative survey, facial coding and implicit response testing. For the “unconscious” measurement, facial movements were recorded in partnership with facial coding business CrowdEmotion on a second by second basis and then coded into six possible emotions: sadness, puzzlement, happiness, fear, rejection and surprise.

Speaking with AdNews BBC Worldwide's senior vice-president commercial development Asia and ANZ, Alistair McEwan, says the publisher chose to do this research as there has been insufficient evidence to show if consumers actually enjoy the approach, despite serious growth in the content marketing sector.

“The challenge for brand owners who are pumping a significant amount of budget into this now, is they need to have confidence and evidence that this is working,” McEwan says.

“What the study found is when you do content marketing well, there is significant acceptance by the consumer who's reading it, and secondly there's a very significant positive benefit for the brand.”

As part of the study the publisher also released what it views as best practise for content marketing.

The publisher's suggestions for good custom content are: be transparent and educate users; match the editorial quality; be clear what the content is trying to achieve and how emotional engagement can support that; Integrate the brand within the narrative; and placing it in a premium environment will give the content credibility.

“If this is allowed to go down a wrong path it will damage this type of communication channel and it will be negative towards the industry,” McEwan warns.

“We as a leading global media company want to take a leadership position to provide this type of information out to all points, to peers, to brands partners, agency and media partners, so people understand how to execute content-led marketing properly,” he adds.

Storyworks launched in Cannes last year and the offering already has lofty goals to get the publisher's content arm generating 50% of the businesses revenue.

McEwan explains that not only is the business a revenue driver, Storyworks along with this new piece of research, has the power to shift how the publisher interacts with brands.

“We see this as being very much as a consultative approach, and it's changing the nature between media owners and brand owners, not from a transactional standpoint, but from a consultative one in the way we can help brands drive results.”

See more of the numbers for yourself below:

  • Transparency and quality were revealed to be the most important factors in engaging the audience.
  • 64% were happy to read content-led marketing so long as it is clear which brand it is presented by and 64% were happy to read as long as it is clearly labelled.
  • Among those who already have a high awareness of the medium, this increases to 82% and 83% respectively. From that group, 80% agreed they would share it and 80% think it plays a complementary role to editorial content.
  • In the facial coding study, rejection for fully labelled brand-presented content was 7% below the average benchmark, while rejection for non-labelled content was 18% above the average.
  • 63% of respondents were happy to see the content as long as it mirrored the quality of the provider’s editorial content. In addition, 59% found the content informative, 55% found it interesting and 57% said they would share it.
  • Consumers are 30% more likely to believe content-led marketing on premium news providers will be more informative and accurate than on non-premium news providers.
  • Content-led marketing enhances brand perceptions, with a +10% uplift for familiarity and a +14% uplift in average brand image between test and control. It also drives brand amplification, with a +14% increase in recommendation and a +16% lift in consideration.
  • Integrating the brand drives a greater emotional response and referencing the brand within the content narrative works harder for the advertiser. Integrated content drives a +109% increase in explicit and a +32% uplift in implicit brand positivity. Integrated content also increases key call to action measures of recommendation (+21%) and consideration (+20%).

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