Apple Patent Explores Mood-Based Ad Targeting

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Apple is working on a means by which a targeted ad delivery system could clue in to a viewer’s mood, and serve them ads appropriate to that mood according to a new patent (via AppleInsider). So if, for example, it finds you’re Twitter stalking your ex and looking at pictures they’re posting wherein they’re having fun and smiling with their new beau, you might get an ad for Haagen Dazs or Jim Beam, at least in theory.

Already, ad targeting uses a number of factors to figure out which are the best ads to show any particular user, taking into account the time of day, their age range, browsing behavior and location, among others. Apple’s patent describes a way in which mood can be assessed, too, to add an extra dimension to the advertiser’s arsenal of consumer intelligence.

Apple’s filing says it can determine mood based on different types of data, including heart rate, blood pressure, adrenaline level, body temperature and verbal cues, many of which are now being volunteered by users of devices in the quantified self space like fitness trackers and more advanced health sensors. It can also use signals like what type of content a user is viewing, which apps they’re using and when, what kind of music they’re listening to, as well as how they’re interacting with social network for finding outwardly expressed cues regarding mood.

The system would also establish a baseline mood for each individual user to compare against, since behavior expressing sadness for one might actually indicate happiness for another, and information regarding the user’s tendencies while under the influence of different moods would be monitored to see what kind of advertising works best for them in each circumstance. Then, it’ll serve up ads appropriate to a user’s current mood, in combination with the other ad targeting criteria mentioned above, when it has enough information.

Of course, the patent also goes into detail about privacy, describing things like expiring mood profiles that only last a certain amount of time, as well as how any data use in the system described would have to be in strict compliance with existing privacy policies and user agreements. It describes a provision for including an “opt in” or “opt out” toggle for use of the system in a device’s settings application (perhaps similar to the current “Limit Ad Tracking” option found in iOS 7). Really, it’s not different from other signals that advertisers currently monitor in this regard.

Ad tech is a secondary concern for Apple, which primarily derives revenue from hardware device sales. But it does have its iAd unit, and if it can increase the value of its platform to advertisers, that improves the ecosystem for developers and thus encourages more and better software, content and services. Mood and sentiment analysis is a hot area in online media these days, thanks to continuing improvements in machine learning, so it’s not surprising to see Apple take some exploratory steps in that direction, but I wouldn’t expect to see this tech implemented in the immediate future.