Could an AI solution be better than eye-tracking?

In this latest series, we are speaking with tech leaders who offer solutions within the research, data and insights space. To shine a spotlight on disruptive technologies and better understand the value they bring.

In our first instalment, Ben Lorkin (Senior Director, Day One) and Abigail Stuart (Founding Partner, Day One) talked to Mark Bainbridge, Co-Founder of Dragonfly AI, a predictive visual analytics platform designed to help creative, marketing and insights teams improve the effectiveness of content and experiences.

Dragonfly AI uses cutting-edge neuroscience to accurately and instantly show what grabs audience’s attention first across any content.

Day One were early pioneers of the technology within market research, with our 2021 EphMRA paper highlighting the added value and, Dragonfly AI continues to form part of our core approach, when seeking to optimise sales aids, concepts and support materials. Recent examples of use include understanding where to locate banner ads for a new tele-health service, so as they were noticed, providing guidance on where to position key messages relating to different indications in a sales aid and to whittle down concepts from eight to two.

But now to the interview…

Can you talk us through the genesis of Dragonfly AI?

It started back in 2010. Originally, when Queen Mary’s University in London, started to think about if they can programme robots with human visual logic capabilities. And in turn, that led to a piece of research about human brain function culminating, after some years of study, in the identification of a system one biological formula, which the brain uses to make decisions, process and prioritise visual content. It led to an understanding of how human attention works. Skip forward to 2018 and Dragonfly AI launched as a start-up, or as we like to think of it, given the experience within our leadership team, a grown-up!

What need does Dragonfly AI address in today’s marketing world?

In a content saturated world “attention” as a currency is becoming really important to brands. We’re now over 20 years into the digital age and if it moves, we can measure it. But the one thing that has forever been the hardest thing to measure is what is happening in that zero moment of truth. Measuring creativity.

I remember someone (John Hegarty Cannes Lions 2010) once said, ‘there is no place for data in creativity’ and you know, how wrong was that? Data leads marketing now. Data is front of mind for every brand on the planet and brand teams all want to know exactly how everything works. So, I think we are a very relevant solution at a time when the market is awakening to the significance of understanding attention.

“Anything that gives a little more insight into that point of engagement with creativity, that leads to more efficient and productive results and better consumer experiences, you know, why wouldn’t you want that?”

You alluded to the tension between technology and creatives. How are you received by creatives?

Creatives have thrived for many years as the rock stars of their industries. And it’s not to say for a moment that Dragonfly AI will replace what they do, we don’t want to. We want to augment their existing creative genius. And creatives who understand the importance of data and insights are very receptive to it.

And then there are others, who based on their years of experience, make decisions on the behalf of clients and brands. What we can do is validate those beliefs. We give them the ability to make what they’re doing work that little bit better. It’s not going to start producing creative outputs, not yet at least but it is going to help us to understand what that creativity is doing.

How has Dragonfly AI been validated? 

Currently by client use and performance improvement; originally the science was validated in a series of academic white papers, MIT validation and case studies. We can show categorically how metrics and KPI performance improves before and after Dragonfly AI.

The original scientific white papers were written by senior cognitive academics at Queen Mary’s, which deep dive into how natural human brain function works. The papers are supported by MIT in the US who have benchmarked it against a human research sample and shown that it scores within 10% accuracy of a human sample, and we’ve got performance case studies across multiple sectors which are proving its value.

How does the validation transfer across different cultures?

We quite often get asked ‘what about cultural differences, like reading from right to left rather than left to right? Or if there’s a certain cultural nuance around colour’, but culture is part of our system two processes that we learn, or are conditioned to see different things and that is part of learned human brain function, not part of that natural processing capability and because they’re learned behaviours, we’re not going to be measuring them. They remain vitally important but imagine Dragonfly as revealing a secret layer predicting how and what humans will see (and won’t see) and how we process this content in the first instance of engagement.

We are born into culture; we don’t fully understand its subtleties and nuances at the moment of birth. And these cultural nuances are of relatively lower consequence in that zero moment of truth.

What we’re showing is what a consumer (as a human being) is predicted to see and ‘are they seeing what as brands, we want them to see? How are they seeing it? In what order? And how easy is it for them to understand what they’re seeing?’ Dragonfly will tell you, what you’re delivering in terms of visual content in the instance before our learned behaviours, emotions and brand response kicks in, regardless of whether it’s in, you know, Asia or in Europe. The same rules apply.

“We tell you whether your content will get noticed at all. Because if they’re not, then it doesn’t matter how much effort you put into making sure that the communication is delivering the right emotion.”

So, what’s the distinction between Dragonfly AI and eye-tracking? Do you think Dragonfly could replace eye-tracking?

I’m very reticent about suggesting Dragonfly AI replaces things. But suffice to say it was modelled and tested against eye-tracking when they did the original academic studies.

Eye-tracking needs human beings who are expensive, capricious, unpredictable, and can give you whatever you want to hear from them; and they cant give you a pre-cognitive view of what they are seeing. Whereas our biological algorithm is going to tell you what the human brain computes and what it sees. Providing a completely independent, objective view of it and as you test new creatives hypotheses it will identify how these are impacting content performance. Even a simple experiment like changing the colour of a clickable CTA will make a difference to creative performance.

“We work with a research agency of significance who have just decided having benchmarked Dragonfly AI against eye-tracking to stop using eye-tracking… because they can do that repetitively at scale, in high volume and, at significantly reduced cost.”

How would you sum up the benefits offered by Dragonfly AI?

Firstly, you can’t ask a human being to tell you about their natural cognitive process. So, we do a job that nothing else can do in the same way. And, attention as a currency is becoming really important. We offer insight into what is happening in the zero moment of truth, which has always been hard to measure. Dragonfly AI shows us what consumers are going to see, instantly. It takes away subjectivity and bias, it helps to get to answers quicker; delivering human ready, high performance content, iteratively and at speed.

Ben Lorkin – Senior Research Director at Day One Strategy

Abigail Stuart – Founding Partner at Day One Strategy

Mark Bainbridge – Co Founder of Dragonfly AI

Dragonfly AI uses cutting-edge neuroscience to accurately and instantly show what grabs the audience’s attention.

Day One Strategy is a specialised healthcare market research agency that combines the latest technology with human intelligence to better understand customers’ wants, needs and behaviours. We start every day as if it’s our first, full of enthusiasm and a desire to try new things.

If you feel the same and would love to leverage the combined power of tech and human intelligence for smarter, faster insight then get in touch: