You looking at me? Vyking launches video ad that reacts to your facial expression

Your tolerance for watching video ads online may vary, but how would you feel if the video ad watched you back? That’s the premise of a new ad unit from Berlin-based ad tech startup Vyking.

Dubbed ReactivAds, the new suite of interactive video ad formats promises to leverage “emotion, facial and gesture recognition” via any device’s webcam to offer a much more personalised ad experience based on Vyking’s live facial expression analysis technology. Once you’ve opted in, of course.

“First and foremost, we want this to be interactive and fun for the user and let them know they’re in control,” says Vyking CEO and co-founder Matthew Klimpke, when I ask about the obvious privacy implications.

“The experience is opt-in; to enter an ad experience the user has to allow access to their webcam. We do not store the user’s images and their gestures and expressions will only be analysed in real-time.”

As to how the new ReactivAds might pan out in practice, Klimpke provided two examples. In the first, you might be asked to watch an ad in return for accessing otherwise paid-for content (ie a publication’s paywall). Once permission is granted, Vyking’s technology detects your location and, based on your facial traits, estimates your gender and age to deliver the most relevant ad. The video ad then adapts depending on your facial expression or gesture.

The second type of ReactivAds is described as immersive. Again, you’ll be asked for consent to activate your webcam, and then an image or other brand content will be merged with your live video feed using the same facial detection technology. This, from what I understand, is more akin to Augmented Reality technology, and the resulting content will have the option to be shared via social media.

But what’s in it for advertisers and publishers, you might ask (though you probably won’t)? Here the case for ReactivAds is more clearcut. Greater engagement should enable publishers to charge a higher rate for ads. And by using facial recognition technology, the effectiveness of ads can be measured in new ways.

“Any effective advertising evokes an emotional response; this technology will enable advertisers to hone in on the raw, unfiltered emotions from their campaigns,” explains Klimpke. “Advertisers need more KPIs to measure engagement beyond clicks. Emotional engagement will become the new KPI of advertising effectiveness.”