Why An Objective Test for Videos is Important

By: Sticky
on August 10, 2016

The old cliche about marketing, “Half of my marketing dollars are wasted, I just don’t know which half,” rings especially true for video advertising. It’s hard to predict how people will react to videos before releasing them, and half the time you don’t know if you’re holding an heirloom or a rotten tomato.

Now, with advances in facial coding technology, it’s possible to measure people’s emotions through their facial expressions while they’re watching a video. In other words, it’s possible to tell how people are feeling and where they’re looking through their webcam. Of course, it’s necessary to opt-in participants and get their permission to access their webcams, but with a reliable participant pool to draw on, that’s no problem.

Measure People’s Emotions to See What Works and What Doesn’t

Philadelphia-based Little Baby’s Ice Cream could have made use of emotion tracking tech before they launched their creepy ad campaign involving a man scooping ice cream out of his own head and eating it. Huffington Post wrote: “If the idea was to destroy viewers’ ice cream appetites forever, they may have just succeeded” in a review of the commercial.

The ad could have been more successful had they measured their viewer’s emotions before releasing the video. The initial image, of a man seemingly made out of ice cream, succeeds in capturing the viewer’s attention with a high level of surprise:

What worked well in this ad was the surprise factor of the ice cream man; what didn’t work so well was what followed. What followed was a series of self-cannibalistic images and voiceovers such as: “I eat Little Baby’s Ice Cream. It keeps me young.”

Surprise quickly falls, and Puzzlement peaks in its place; people are confused about why this is supposed to make them want ice cream.

Use Emotions to Optimize Your Videos


Heineken’s Beer Closet commercial was its most popular ad recently; while good, it could have been even better.


The 32 second ad begins with some exposition: A woman shows people around her house, through the living room, the bedroom, and then (excitedly) her closet. In the closet, her friends see her shoes, and they begin screaming, which is followed by the sound of men screaming. 20 seconds into the commercial, the object of the commercial is revealed when the scene shifts to the guys’ closet full of beer.

While Happiness is the top emotion in the video, it takes 27 seconds to achieve this peak.

We wanted to see if the same effect could be achieved with a shorter exposition, so we cut out the first 15 seconds of the video and ran it again. You can watch the shorter version here.

We discovered that the same emotional signature could be elicited with a shorter commercial. Starting it with the women screaming in the closet elicits Surprise at first, but the Surprise becomes Happiness when the source of the men’s screams is revealed to be Heineken.

When screentime costs millions of dollars for a commercial, 15 seconds shorter could save a company a lot of money. Heineken’s commercial could have been nearly as successful for half the cost, had they just measured their viewers’ emotions beforehand.

You can watch the video of Sticky’s emotion study for Heineken’s commercial (full length) here and the optimized version here.

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