You're home, watching a favorite TV program, and feeling kinda blue. You barely even notice that each commercial seems toned down, gentle, even reassuring -- the way a friend might temper their conversation to your state of mind. That vision of emotion-aware advertising could become a reality, if a new Microsoft patent application pans out.
The application, No. 20120143693, describes computer-based media that are "configured to target advertisements based on emotional state." In this projected reality, advertisers specify the "desired emotional states of users they intend to target with advertisements," as well as "emotional tags," which are then used to select ads with similar emotional tags.
An "advertisement engine" would select the appropriate commercials to serve, apparently in real-time before a viewer's emotional state changes. Emotional states of users could be determined by obtaining and analyzing online activities, which "identify a tone associated with content that the user interacted with during the time period."
Online activity would include browsing history, Web page content, search queries, emails, IMs, and online games. Emotional states would be characterized as being positive, happy, confused, neutral, negative, angry, or sad, and they would be assigned a duration during which sympathetic ads would be delivered.
The system would also be able to discern the viewer's emotional state through facial expressions or gestures captured by an image capture device, or by speech patterns via an audio capture device. In other words, a device not unlike Microsoft's gestural game controller Kinect would be used to capture emotional indicators.
Since there are many projects under way to port Kinect to all manner of computers and mobile devices, this emotional reading could conceivably take place via virtually any kind of device for any kind of user, not just game players or Web surfers.
'WITH A BANG!'
Under this system, advertisers could provide multiple versions of a given ad, which are each targeted toward a different emotional state. The metadata about the ads, as well as emotional information and identifiers for users, are all convened in corresponding databases, to be called upon as required.
As an example use case, the patent application posits a company called OMG Inc., which owns bowling alleys and lounges specializing in birthday parties in various cities. In one ad, an animated bowling ball rolls down a lane, smashes bowling pins, and triggers balloons and fireworks.
The rising balloons contain an emphatic message: "CELEBRATE YOUR BIRTHDAY WITH A BANG AT OMG!" But consumer feedback has indicated that there's too much "bang" in the message for some viewers. OMG decides to modify its campaign so that its over-the-top ads are shown only to viewers in a positive emotional state, not those who are sad or distressed.
A central question to this scheme is whether advertisers or viewers actually want emotion-tailored advertising. No data has been released as to whether viewers do, but, then again, few viewers would understand what emotionally relevant ads are.
We asked Gartner Research Director Andrew Frank if this seemed to be something advertisers might want.
"If you polled advertisers, you wouldn't get a strong signal that this is something they've been missing," Frank said.
But, he added, advertisers often assume that the more you know about the viewer, the better.
Posted: 2012-06-28 @ 2:11pm PT
Emoshape Ltd has also filed a patent based on emotions for the EmoPlayer ...