OgilvyOne's Creative Director, Jeremy Garner, considers the creative possibilities for targeting based on emotions in Contagious

With the news that emotional surveillance is being trialled in some Wall Street investment banks to monitor the physiology of traders in real time, the possibilities for digital marketing continue to be impossible to ignore.

As insights drawn from myriad data streams demand new angles to enable powerful ways for brands to stand out, it would seem that the means to gauge the exact emotional state of consumers at a precise moment in time – and act on it – could well trump everything in terms of cutting through the clutter and resonating.

Not merely by scraping consumers’ social media activity, or by tracking their online journeys, but instead by using a combination of wearable sensors to measure pulse and perspiration and microphones to monitor speech. 

The technology in question is being trialled by investment banks to mitigate risk, alerting senior management and warning traders to step away from their screens when their emotions run wild. 

Technology from another startup company scans employee communications and trading records – including emotional analysis of telephone conversations – to look for inconsistencies from established patterns to prompt a closer look. 

Add these techniques to facial recognition technology, which uses a catalogue of over 5,000 different muscle movements to reveal hidden emotions, and it would appear that the marketer’s holy grail – to gauge exactly how a target audience is feeling at a moment in time and present them with an appropriate option, message, thought or product – is becoming ever-closer.

Plus, by combining these principles with other technologies to create hybrid touchpoints, the possibilities do begin to open up. Imagine, for example, a ‘free’ transportation network which only requires you to wear your wristband pass, which, of course, is a wearable sensor. This, in turn, aggregates the emotional surveillance data of all passengers, and serves up the most appropriate brand communications on the in-carriage digital screens. Or, plays the most suitable sponsored entertainment content on those screens. Or, provides users, via their wristbands again, with the most relevant offers at stores near the next station – all based on the prevailing mood of travellers within the network at an exact moment in time. 

Of course, privacy is a paramount topic here (as it is everywhere). But, if you’re signing up to the services of the ‘free’ system, then the value exchange taking place – their services for your data – is in principle no different that Facebook and countless other firms.

In fact, the possibilities are as boundless as people are emotional. That is to say, pretty much unlimited. All it takes is a commercial agreement, the technology to make it happen, and suddenly the touchpoints begin to present themselves, along with their corresponding creative opportunities. Aggregating the emotional state of drivers on a specific toll road so that the radio stations play the most ‘suitable’ music, or so the service stations prioritise their menus with foods with nutritional properties most conducive to that emotional condition? It’s really just a question of looking for overlays in the different service, distribution or communications networks to see where the opportunities might be. 

Some might argue it’s a case of using the old building blocks of communications – creative hook tallied up with emotional condition – but using new and innovative delivery mechanisms.

Powered, of course, by the omnipresent data which we all have a highly emotional relationship with at times.

This was first published in Contagious.