The Telegraph uses biometrics to boost branded content business

For the last three months, The Telegraph has been using biometric testing to improve its branded content creative and win new business. It has run eight campaigns using at least one of its biometrics tools, six of these with new clients.

The Telegraph offers neuro testing, galvanic skin response, facial coding, eye tracking and implicit testing in post-campaign analysis and in shaping creative. For now, the publisher is using third-party companies such as Neuro-Insight, but the aim is to bring the capabilities in-house.

Simon Peaple, head of commercial insight, made case back in November that investing in biometrics would bring in seven figures in incremental revenue in 12 months. It hit that goal in three months. The Telegraph doesn’t offer these tools to campaigns under a £150,000 ($197,000) price tag, nudging some clients to up their budget to meet this threshold.

“We know exactly how The Telegraph audience responds to stimulus, whether that’s campaign creative or contextual targeting,” said Peaple. “Our audience acts differently to other audiences. If you want to optimize your campaign with us and get standout results, you need an extra layer about our audience that only we can do.”

The Telegraph is building a panel of 50,000 and in the coming months will use it to ask questions like what values they associate with a brand. By early next year, The Telegraph plans to build out clusters of psychographic audience segments of people making big life changes, like buying a car or starting a family, to model out to its whole audience through its data-management platform and sell to advertisers, moving from demographics to need states, from behavioral to mindsets. Unlike publishers that are using articles to target audiences based on their mood, The Telegraph wants to discern the mood of audiences on an individual level.

In a campaign that’s running with Peugeot, The Telegraph used neuro testing on 50 people to see at which point long-term memory encoding took place by reading brain waves. Product placement was added at this point in the video, in the form of quick brand references. When the campaign is over, the publisher will test how this version of the video compared against creative without additional branding. Another campaign set to go live soon for an entertainment brand is using GSR to identify which creative causes audiences to have goosebumps.

As with new technology, there are still wrinkles, and the danger is in taking a blunt approach to reading the responses. With no standards or benchmarks, most publishers will be waiting to see the true value of biometrics before they pony up.

Ben Bale, creative innovation director at Omnicom’s content agency, Drum, said being able to link the research with the analytics is key, which needs a large, robust panel. If it’s not connected to first-party data, neuro testing can be gimmicky.

The barriers are high to do quality neuro testing; publishers need large-scale audiences and investment. Equally, as it’s still a new field, different skills and job roles are needed, like data scientists with psychology backgrounds.

“Neuro testing is a big investment. You need between five and 10 different clients laying down big budgets in order to take in-house,” said Peaple.

Roughly 10 percent of The Telegraph’s campaigns are using biometric techniques, while an additional 15 or so are using a form of eye-tracking or facial coding; not all clients will need to have such deep understanding of their audience.

“It’s growing in popularity,” said James Duffy, head of media futures at Total Media, which has been using biometric testing for the last year. Clients aren’t approaching the agency asking for these tools, but they are instantly interested when they hear about it. “It’s not hard to translate the value of showing people what they are thinking compared to what they say they are thinking,” he said.

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