Creative Testing Using Facial Coding | MDRG

Creative Testing Using Facial Coding

Peter Schamp

Strategic Insights Manager

Creative Testing Using Facial Coding: Measuring Emotional Responses to Creative Executions

A Fortune 200 company sought to understand if their planned advertising campaign would draw out the emotions and elicit purchase intent from two separate segments. The partnering agency developed two creative executions in animatic format for testing. These ads centered around the theme of “Simplicity”: “Simple Talent” and “Simple Tech.” MDRG’s task was to measure emotional responses to the creative executions and identify the most effective one.


  • “Simple Talent” received higher scores across metrics in the new service area
  • The ads were received more evenly in the client’s legacy service area
  • “Simple Talent” fared better on rational metrics (respondents felt it was more relevant and believeable), but was also found to be less engaging than “Simple Tech.”

Facial Coding helped MDRG understand why

  • The legacy service area, which is mostly urbanized, began to have less positive emotional responses to the ad at the 8-second mark, the point at which rural imagery appears
  • The new service area, which is mostly rural, continued to have positive emotional responses through the duration of the ad
  • The more urbanized, established market did not shift back to positive emotional responses until the end of the ad, which switches away from the rural scenery to an emotional payoff featuring the commercial’s main character

facial coding


The final campaign ran in both traditional and new service areas and needed to be effective in both markets.


Considering the overwhelmingly more positive response for “Simple Talent” in the new service area, MDRG recommended “Simple Talent” be put into full production.

However, there was some concern that “Simple Talent” was not as engaging as “Simple Tech” in the more urban legacy service area. The results of the facial coding exercise uncovered that use of rural scenery in “Simple Talent” was less engaging to those in the urban legacy service area and did not create a strong emotional response until the last ten seconds when it transitioned from rural scenery to the ad’s main character. Considering the final ad had to run both in the new and legacy service areas, MDRG recommended that the full production of “Simple Talent” keep the rural scenery to appeal to the new service area, but that it should make a quicker transition to the main character at the end to appeal to both service areas.

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