13th February 2014

Getting in the marketing mood

By Michael Wood on Thursday February 13, 2014

Apparently, Apple wants to know how we’re all feeling… so it can show us adverts based on our mood! A new patent filed by the tech giant has revealed its plans to serve us up content tailored not just to our search history and app use, but to our emotions too.

Now, web browsers do already customise their ad-content to each user, with cookies tracking their internet usage to identify what kind of products or services they might be interested in. This encourages companies looking to zero in on the customers most likely to use their service to take out ad-space online.

However, this existing technology has its limitations, particularly when it comes to adverts’ relevance to users’ immediate needs, as it is too reliant on what they have looked for in the past.

My browser at home is still trying to lure me into taking a trip with Thomson this summer, despite the fact I booked my holiday with another travel agent more than a month ago, while banners continue to showcase the latest in babygro fashion just because I searched once for a gift for a friend’s newborn son.

Obviously, this can be tremendously annoying for web users and doesn’t really help them find what they want online.

What makes Apple’s patent so different and exciting is that it would take all this further, using additional data gathered in real time to gauge the user’s mood and customise ad content accordingly.

So, if their recent search history shows they have been playing game apps, or watching funny YouTube videos, the new system would infer that the user is happy and display adverts that are not only tailored to the subject of what they’ve been watching, but are also more positive in nature.

If their searches suggest they’ve been planning a serious event, such as a funeral, or if they’ve been viewing negative content, the system will ‘downgrade’ the user’s mood and show commercials with a more sombre tone.

To make this pinpointing of users’ emotions even more precise, Apple wants to gather additional data from users. Its patent proposes creating smartphones and tablets that measure the pressure applied to the screen as a means of gauging stress levels, or using web- and phone-cameras to record facial expressions. Apple even suggests developing wearable technology, such as its rumoured ‘iWatch’ to monitor heart rate, body temperature, perspiration levels and other mood markers.

All this, of course, sounds incredible, a vision of a distant future, perhaps, but much of the technology exists today. And, rather than being an Orwellian tool for brands to zero in on their target audience to grow sales, this would actually benefit us as consumers.

Gone would be the annoying chaff cluttering our screen – commercials completely irrelevant to us and our lives. In their place would be adverts pertinent to our needs at that particular moment.

The secret of a successful ad campaign is the identification of all the variables that affect our individual purchasing decisions. As consumers, we are not all the same, and our individual desires and whims change from hour to hour. Such tailoring would help make advertising more responsive to our needs, ensuring we only see what is of interest and use to us.

Apple’s proposed system would, without a doubt, be the Holy Grail of marketing and communications, enabling brands to engage potential customers at precisely the point when they are most likely to buy their product or use their service.

I, for one, hope that the firm’s bright idea sees the light of day, as I am very much looking forward to finally being free of irrelevant and irritating adverts!