Why NBCUniversal is adding emotion to its measurement framework

    NBCUniversal has continued its push to modernize measurement by creating a new certification that attempts to tie together emotion and ad quality. The focus on emotion is driven by research the media conglomerate commissioned that found strong emotional engagement drives 80% of consumers’ brand preference considerations, with NBCU’s media brands and intellectual property outstripping its competitors’ marks for brand love and emotional engagement.

    With that data in mind, NBCU is adding emotional impact to its audience measurement framework, which it has sought to build out this year by elevating partners like and Comscore and boosting its capabilities around data. The moves come as it looks towards a future where Nielsen is no longer the dominant currency for measurement — especially as advertising becomes even more fragmented across platforms.

    “Advertisers, at the end of the day, want to understand impact, and we can’t only count [reach] alone. They also want to know, ‘Why does my advertising work and how can it work better?’ in the context of our premium content versus other content,” said Kelly Abcarian, executive vice president for measurement and impact of advertising and partnerships at NBCUniversal.

    “Our content is premium, and we want to prove how our content and advertising can work together. We think emotion is a great way in which to understand the linkage between pre-market creative performance and in-market measurement,” she explained.

    As part of the new push, NBCU is working with Dumbstruck, an emotional analytics company that connects facial coding and eye-tracking AI, to learn how an audience’s emotional response to a specific ad affects its performance. Along with Dumbstruck, an NBCU blog post authored by Abcarian names System 1, Emoto.AI, Kantar’s Link Ad Test and Dynata’s Ameritest as other possible partners that are innovating in the space.

    “We know it’s a massive undertaking that we need to put a call-to-action out to the marketplace, because we can’t do it alone,” Abcarian said. “We’re really scouring the entire landscape of creative testing and measurement specialists that can help us to really launch this very important measurement category so that we can start to bring certified partners around emotion to the table.”

    A potential game-changer

    Abcarian and NBCU hope that by adding emotion to the measurement framework, ad impact can be more of a shared responsibility between advertisers and publishers. NBCU hopes to prove its value by helping to scale a proprietary creative testing solution that can deliver on end-market performance; reinforce its negotiation position for outcome guarantees; and build a track for in-flight creative optimization, Abcarian explained.

    “What we’re talking about is a true game-changer: an operational model that can adjust mountains of creative metadata and allow us to anticipate real-world results for a bottom-line impact,” she added.

    While the new initiative was just announced at Cannes Lions, Abcarian hopes to be able to share initial results early in the fourth quarter. That is a similar timeline to its recent currency pilot with, the details of which NBCU shared last week. The test-and-learn — across 67 advertisers and 158 brands — set a baseline for how experiments around a new currency framework are working and how they can be better optimized.

    The major takeaway of the pilot was that 40% of NBCU’s upfront business will be conducted outside traditional “age and gender” guarantees — whether done with AdSmart, OpenAP, iSpot and to some extent Nielsen — demonstrating a shift that has advertisers seeking measurement beyond legacy standards.

    NBCU reaches 237 million adults each month across its portfolio — which it maintains is the greatest scale of any media company — including audiences that are “streaming-exclusives.” Nearly two-thirds (64%) of impressions on Peacock were to streaming-only audiences, demonstrating the necessity of streaming advertising to reach cord-cutters. After the test-and-learn, NBCU is now recommending advertisers run 30%-40% of their media mix on over-the-top channels for optimal results.

    Like the currency pilot, NBCU’s new emotion metrics seek to better connect advertising to market outcomes by focusing on the creative contribution to ad impact.


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