NBCUniversal aims to tie emotion, creative measurement to ad outcomes

NBCUniversal announced a certification for emotion and ad quality as a new category within its audience measurement framework. It’s part of a push to help marketers better understand how the emotion element and creative impacts outcomes for marketers.

NBCU unveiled the new effort this week coinciding with Cannes Lions in France.

Kelly Abcarian, EVP of Measurement & Impact for Advertising and Partnerships at NBCUniversal, highlighted the important role emotions can play when it comes to content and advertising.

“Emotional relationships to our content are what fuels fandom. It’s why we constantly test our content to understand feelings like brand love, because emotional connections with our fans can have tangible benefits for brands,” Abcarian wrote in a blog post. “And the same kind of rigor publishers apply to premium content needs to be applied to the quality of the ads as it runs alongside it.”

Speaking to Fierce Video on Tuesday Abcarian, who is on-site at Cannes, said the creativity community and the importance of creative to advertising is being celebrated, but what advertisers really want to understand is impact and essentially answer the “why”.

“We can’t only just focus on counting alone,” she said. “Because advertisers want to know ‘why does my advertising work’ and ‘how can it work better.’”

However, it will be a journey, she emphasized, and part of NBCU’s move includes a broader call to action on the part of the industry. It’s asking measurement companies that are focused on understanding emotion to come forward and help NBCU connect emotion to outcomes so that the publisher can ultimately improve its value as a partner to advertisers.

Connecting emotion to outcome guarantees

The emotion and ad quality certification category is step one, initially looking to see how the company can help scale a creative testing solution that delivers on in-market performance, Abcarian said.

Today, creative houses do a lot of pre-market testing to make better consumer-informed decisions, she noted. NBCU wants to take that to the next level with the link between emotion metrics and in-market outcome metrics, showing the creative contribution to results.

“We want to seek ways to calibrate at scale, how we can take those creative test scores, with reach and impact metrics, and really bring that into the measurement fold,” she said.

Part of that aim is to reinforce NBCU’s negations position for outcome guarantees it’s asked to make by advertisers, “by anticipating or calibrating against how creative contribution has a corollary effect to performance,” she continued. One example of a common outcome guarantee ask by advertisers is sales lift.

“Lastly, how could we build a track for in-flight creative optimization that can start to begin to consider things like creative wear-in or wear-out, and more.”

And better creative measurement that links emotions to outcomes is something NBCU sees “lots of potential” in, with Abcarian adding that creative measurement is the next logical build to the new model.

“The contribution that creative has to any kind of ROI-based measurement is a major blind spot, given the progress in quantifying the value of cross-platform reach.” Now NBCU believes it has the ability the help offer up and deliver a more holistic measurement solution, concerning both the creative and its placement.

While most existing creative testing started in the linear world, the new effort crosses both traditional TV and streaming video. Abcarian said with the monumental shift in the industry toward future premium content on streaming, one thing that has become very clear is changes in streamers' expectations when it comes to things like attention and the capacity to engage with what they’re viewing.

“Streaming has really brought a whole spectrum of new viewership behaviors so we know that advertisers also see that, and being able to seize on those consumption patterns will be critical,” she noted. “We’re really excited not just doing this across linear, but OTT alike and really trying to understand how we can give our advertisers better information about how and where they can show up, and when to show up across Peacock as well as our other One Platform properties.”

New model could be a ‘game changer’

One company NBCU has been working with is Dumbstruck, which uses psychology, facial coding and eye tracking AI to glean insights from emotional analytics.

“Now, we’re testing and learning with Dumbstruck to further prove the relationship between the audience’s emotional response to a specific ad and its in-market performance – and, by extension, open new pathways to not just understanding creative’s true impact but transacting on it,” Abcarian explained in her Tuesday blog.

Still, she emphasized to Fierce that the effort is not about one company.

“What we’re talking about here is an operational model that could really be a true game changer to ingest the mountains of creative metadata that could allow us to better anticipate real world results that help us better understand” how that’s impacting businesses bottom line, she said.

As early steps NBCU is looking at how it can evaluate partners that provide creative emotional measurement. That includes exploring how partners can provide emotional scoring and scale it, as well as provide real-time emotional response mechanisms to understand creative performance and evaluate the correlation logic to improve the relationship between the emotional response to an ad and its in-market performance.

“As we continue to focus on fixing the basic math around counting, to ensure that we can count it all across platforms and which to deliver on accurate reach and frequency metrics, we want to begin this journey to understand impact and how emotion has a role in really driving impact or outcomes for our advertisers,” Abcarian said.