Facial Expression Analysis | FEA | Future Proof

Mapping Emotion | Hewlett-Packard

To determine the emotional impact of a Hewlett Packard TV Spot on viewers, the advertisement was analysed to determine the emotional response of participants towards the creative.

Client / Project:



Key principle: integrating emotional triggers in a creative using storytelling techniques

Research Question:

Determining at which stages of a television advertisement certain emotional triggers occur. 

Study Approach:

Creative/Ad Testing to measure oxytocin levels during exposure to a stimulus. 


The goal of this study was to determine the emotional impact of a Hewlett TV Spot on viewers. To achieve this, the CEO of Immersion Neuroscience, Dr. Paul Zak tested the impact of a Hewlett Packard (HP) advertisement on Shane Snow, author, journalist, and co-founder of Contently. 

While playing the TV spot, Zak measured Shane’s emotional response to the ad by monitoring his level of oxytocin also known as the ‘empathy chemical’ while exposed to the advertisement. 


By measuring the respondent’s oxytocin levels by tracking the cadence of your Vagus — a nerve that controls your heartbeat (using the INBand). Oxytocin is known as the ‘empathy chemical’. 

While active in the brain, we can relate to others more, care about them, and feel an urge to help them. And when your brain synthesizes the chemical while exposed to sensory applications (ad creative), it provides an accurate account of emotional engagement. 

The Results 

After exposure to the ad spot, the respondent eventually began to tear up, however, interestingly the device had already picked up on this in advance through specific fluctuations in oxytocin levels.

At each point of the ad where the father experiences rejection, the corresponding points on the graph show that the respondent experienced bursts of emotion, brought on by the levels of empathy developed towards the main protagonist.

And at the end of the ad, you’ll notice a corresponding spike in emotion on the graph that shows exactly the respondent had been brought to tears. The ad’s emotional effects even bled over to Shane’s reality, making him feel empathetic toward the father after the ad ended, which is evidenced by the last spike’s gradual fade.

Key Takeaways 

  • Tell gripping stories: By telling gripping and engaging stories that are embedded with conflict, suspense, and emotion you can elicit bursts of emotional responses, like how Shane developed empathy for the Father.
  • Emotion Drives Recall: Content that drives an emotional response is flagged by our brain as ‘relevant’ and receives prioritised cognitive processing which drives recall
  • Associations: The use of a relatable storyline that people can associate their lives with drives recognition & recall
  • Vicarious Rewards: Experience of / potential of “reward” is a powerful driver of human behaviour. But interestingly, “vicarious” reward – that is, seeing someone else be rewarded – can elicit similar brain responses to the experience of the reward itself. 
  • Anticipatory Response:  When we build up to a moment, the Neurons in our brain begin to show asymmetric shifts in their activity and start firing earlier in anticipation of their preferred stimulus. We are essentially primed for the outcome, ultimately driving recall and leaving a lasting impression.
  • Understanding the process: By realising how this process works from start to finish, you can build a framework to map key moments and implement the necessary triggers to elicit the desired response. 

    If you are interested in applying neuromarketing to your business contact us here