Since its inception in 2011, Studio XO— the London-based interactive design studio we once featured for their incredible "blushing" Bubelle dress— have been interested in creating a platform, "for emotional sensing and emotional data, and how it could interact with the other platforms in our lives." In a different twist, they've teamed up with Marshmallow Laser Feast and Berlin collective Elektropastete to debut a new technology that could forever change the way advertisers curate emotional responses to and from target markets.
This year, Saatchi & Saatchi, the quality-driven curators of the annual Saatchi & Saatchi New Directors Showcase (NDS)—responsible for an annual Cannes debut of a showreel that features the best and brightest directors of new content, including Box director Tarik Abdel-Gawad (check out our making-of featurette here), and First Kiss creator, Tatia Pilieva— with the help of Studio XO and data visualizations from Marshmallow Laser Feast with Berlin collective Elektropastete, unleashed an emotional response-measuring wristband that could potentially alter forever the landscape of exit polling and market research.
"For the first time ever, the emotional journey of 2,300 people in the Cannes Lions audience was monitored live in an experiment," explained Saatchi & Saatchi to The Creators Project. While their crowd was concurrently treated to the 19 films of the 18 directors selected to be part of the New Directors' Showcase, using the so-called "Amy" emotional-repsonse monitoring wristbands custom-made for Studio XO's XOX Emotional Technology Platform, Saatchi & Saatchi were able to live-visualize their audience's emotion responses on-screen. Not only was the agency able to directly collect data from the visceral responses of their guests, they were able to show the audience at the Grand Auditorium in Cannes how they felt, as they felt it.
The agency explains:
The wristband is a silicon band containing electronics that draw biometric data out of the body by listening to its ebb and flow. The wristbands measure levels of excitement in the host, magenta being the highest state of arousal, and an LED light embedded in the wristband moves through a spectrum of colours (blue, green, orange, red & magenta) indicating that the wearer is having an ‘episode’ and experiencing a wide range of emotions. Information was processed and broadcast wirelessly. […]
The data collected shows that the idea, the concept and the technology were proven, and it is possible to capture a human reaction to a film and store it as data.
According to the data collected by Studio XO, and presented in anticipation of the NDS's New York debut last night at BAM, "98% of Users were stimulated by the work they saw on the NDS reel; 83% of Users experienced relatively high levels of arousal; 65% of Users turned highly aroused at some point."
In an interview with The Creators Project, Saatchi & Saatchi's Worldwide Director of Digital and Social, Tom Eslinger, said it's an important step towards, "being able to know even a little bit about what moves people." Through, "building loyalty beyond reason, and having people choose brands because of an emotional response they have to something— we thought it was really cool."
Eslinger continued: "We had never done any kind of exit polling when people left the Palais. We've always just been kind of world of mouth— and the last couple of years tracking Twitter and Facebook. […] The thing that it means to me, quite simply, is that we always want to know about what people feel about the things we're making in advertising. What kinds of visceral reactions are people having? In this sense, we wanted to try out how we'd do it if we really could actually find out."
The results, however, were far from expected. Explained Eslinger, "A lot of people stayed in the kind of green-to-blue area, and I think that's because we're so desensitized to violence and horror. The stuff with sex in it pushed people into the red— at least in my row, and where I could see around me— and got much more of a reaction."
The Creators Project also spoke to the designers of the wristbands, Benjamin Males and Nancy Tilbury of Studio XO. Of their reasoning for developing the nascent technology, said Tilbury, "Once we start living with intimate data, we start to think more soulfully about ourselves and how we live our lives and the actions that we take. And that is truly fascinating because it’s an honest piece of technology that’s telling you the truth about how you feel."
Males echoed the sentiment: "We’re giving the body a vocabulary; giving the body a Twitter platform. So who would have thought with Twitter, and limiting communication to 140 characters, you could do so much? You can write stories and you can sell and you can emotionally connect with other people. We believe that by doing the same thing, by creating a framework, an architecture of the body to communicate, that we will start to see some really interesting things happen."
As far as the next steps for the XOX Emotional Technology Platform go, Eslinger explained that both Saatchi & Saatchi and Studio XO seek to take it, "to a level and a sophistication where we can deploy it commercially. […] We can measure people's reactions to things over time, we can measure people's reactions in and out of home, and that's what we want to look at.
"It won't necessarily say, 'You like Cherry Coke more than you like Coca-Cola,' just from drinking," Eslinger claimed, "but we'll be able to get a more emotional reaction to a story that's being built around Cherry Coke as opposed to a story that's just being built around Coke." It's the dawn of a revolution in emotionally-driven content for advertisers and consumers, alike— one begging to forever change the meaning of wearing your heart on your sleeve.
Visit Saatchi & Saatchi to learn more about the New Directors' Showcase, and check out all 19 of the films selected for their showreel on YouTube.
Designing Flying Dresses And The Future Of Fashion, Meet Studio XO