“The research provided us with a far more detailed understanding than we could have imagined of how viewers engage with a race.

Above all, for the first time ever, we can use this data within a true data science environment deploying techniques such as machine learning to inform us of the path to better fan satisfaction.

The value of the research is clear, and we’re very keen to build a bank of knowledge about our fans’ engagement so that we can move the sport forward in the right way.” 

Pat Symonds, Chief Technical Officer, Formula 1

As a result of the world’s first ever in-home biometric study of a live event conducted by Populus on behalf of Formula 1 (F1), F1 gained the following:

  1. Second-by-second tracking of a live motoring event via a biometric traceline
  2. Analysis and optimisation of the impact of production decisions on viewers’ engagement
  3. Knowledge for the Motor Sports team on how different parts of the race can engage viewers (eg pit stops, safety cars etc)
  4. New, previously unattainable insight into engagement, and how to optimise it. For example, engagement during car safety periods can be increased via the use of engaging interviews
  5. Optimal placement of messaging and advertising, camera angles and commentary
  6. Replays have been timed throughout the live event to induce engagement and enjoyment
  7. Future broadcasting formats have been tailored to truly deliver on what grabs and holds the attention of viewers
  8. 97% of respondents said they would be interested in doing another biometrics study, showing increased survey engagement and enjoyment, and representing an important step-change for the market research industry.

Biometrics in market research represents the pinnacle of innovation; human touch meets technology.

Our bodies are the gateways to our inner most thoughts and feelings. Biometric technology in market research promises to deliver a scalable and practical way of tracking real-time engagement with content. F1 and Populus collaborated in order to carry out the first ever in-home biometric survey. The survey is an industry-leading example of the use of biometrics in market research.

The challenge

F1 wanted to evaluate fan experience during live TV viewing of an F1 race. Specifically, they needed to understand which race moments are more engaging and drive stronger interest and those that detract from the viewing experience.

The mission? To understand on a second-by-second basis how viewers of F1 Grand Prix reacted to content using biometric sensors which measure Galvanic Skins Responses (GSR) and GSR traces, to compare implicit responses with reported responses, and ultimately to find the core ingredients of what makes an engaging race for Formula 1 fans.

What we did

People can’t articulate how they feel easily and therefore asking them will often result in rational responses. The best way to understand people’s emotional response to something is to capture it passively, unobtrusively and in-the-moment, which removes the risk of bias or reliance on post-rationalism. We worked with our partners MindProber and Populus Data Solutions to deliver a biometric approach that captures and tracks the implicit emotional journeys that everyone goes on when they consume media, in real-time.

We tracked Galvanic Skin Response (GSR) to measure how the autonomic nervous system responds to timely stimuli– the larger emotional load of the content the higher perspiration activity is. Our GSR signals are taken from the palm of the hand which happens to be one of the best regions on the human body for these physiological signals.

By using a natural feedback mechanism, we were able to capture a clear indication on natural behaviour (because the biometric tracker sits in the palm of the hand and does not interfere with normal activity). The fact that there are no wires and respondents can sit in their own home, in their natural environment, simply watching the TV as they would normally means we can be sure reactions are true to life.

It was respondent friendly and appropriate for market research, with 97% of respondents said they would be interested in doing another biometrics study, whilst the device itself is small, easy to use and comparatively cheaper than other biometric equipment. The technique is fully scalable and practical. There is a pool of respondents recruited and ready to use the equipment, offering a cost-effective and fast way to track engagement with content over time.

MindProber is the world’s first automated biometric media testing platform. The company enables the real-time collection and analysis of the biometric and behavioural reactions of hundreds of people to media content, and report on the overall and second-to-second impact of the material through client-controlled interactive dashboards

The results

Behind the scenes, Populus was able to automatically analyse the data using state-of-the-art algorithms, generating emotional impact reports within an interactive dashboard. This gave F1 second-by-second tracking via a biometric traceline.

These large data sets could then be analysed to reveal patterns, trends and associations relating to human behaviour allowing clients to uncover areas of optimisation at a micro level– so in F1’s case as well as looking at peaks and dips in engagement across the race they could also explore what unique camera angles are most engaging, what type of commentary has a positive impact, how & when team radio can be best utilised and the decay effect of using replays.

These learnings can be used to ensure future broadcasting formats are tailored to truly deliver on what grabs and holds the attention of the viewer over the course of the race.

The application of this methodology will have an impact on any industries that rely on long-form or live content consumption. By delivering large data sets which can be analysed to reveal patterns and trends in human behaviour at the micro-level, the use of biometrics in market research paves the way for greater understanding of content engagement, over a range of periods of time.

As media consumption increases, the brands that survive will be the ones that are able to forge stronger emotional connections so the use of biometrics has been a valuable tool in being better equipped to optimise content towards viewers. The application of the methodology heralds a significant moment for market research, showing the ever increasing importance of live, long-form content and the ability to measure engagement with it on both a second-by-second basis, and quantitative scale.

The result was the world’s first in-home biometric study, generating an emotional impact report, that ushers in a new era of technological innovation in market research. With market research techniques evolving at pace, the study shows that biometrics can successfully be applied in a cost-effective, accurate and large-scale way within surveys.