Smile — You're On Disney Camera

by Dave Zornow

ABC Television wants to see you smile. Really.

In his keynote address to the Advertising Research Foundation AMS 7.0 Conference in NYC, SVP Research Charles Kennedy talked about how ABC Television is using “big data,” mobile and new technology to conduct research. Kennedy says that many research studies are like a man looking for his car keys by a street light: it’s the easiest place to look. “I would argue that the best insights are out there in the dark,” he said.

Kennedy says that Disney’s Technology Lab is helping ABC develop new metrics which take traditional TV dial tests to the next level. Instead of asking people to turn a dial when they like or dislike something they see in a video test, cameras record when participants smile in response to something they have seen. “The Disney Media Lab system uses a facial recognition system that accurately and automatically encodes facial expression.” Kennedy says smiling is the easiest and most reliable expression to capture.

Disney has created three new smile metrics. Smile velocity (how fast was that smile?), the Percent of Time Smiling and Scene Peak Analysis (where did you smile and how big was that smile?). Kennedy says smile measurement holds a lot of promise, especially when testing sitcoms. Modern Family delivered about 10 times as many smiles as a control in an ABC TV Network test. It holds particular promise for creating on-air promos: knowing which scenes and dialog will likely produce a smile, promotion producers can focus on including that content in on-air promos.

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