Brand Consumer Engagement Trends 2018: Facial Recognition Campaigns | Evoke Films

How Brands Are Using Facial Recognition Tech To Elevate Consumer Engagement

Weary travellers passing through Tambo Airport in 2013 got a pleasant surprise when they discovered that a Douwe Egberts vending machine, rigged with facial recognition technology, dispensed free coffee whenever a passerby yawned.

As customers deduced how the machine worked, word spread through the airport, and travellers were soon queuing to interact with the machine. This highly acclaimed campaign demonstrates the potential of facial recognition technology when used correctly.

Whilst some brands use this tech as a way of harvesting customer data, something that many consumers feel uncomfortable with, Douwe Egberts created a highly entertaining campaign that elicited a proactive engagement from otherwise passive consumers.

Facial recognition offers a fantastic opportunity to initiate a more meaningful interaction between brands and consumers, but advertisers walk a tightrope when seeking to utilise this powerful tool. Many consumers are understandably wary of facial recognition, with its Big Brother overtones, so how can brands leverage this tech into engaging ads that do not feel intrusive?


In 2013 Virgin Mobile launched their Blinkwashing campaign — a choose-your-own-adventure video in which the plot was manipulated by the viewer’s eye movements. Combining 25 different wacky and colourful films, the viewer was able to advance the story by blinking, with thousands of possible narratives available in different combinations. By ceding control of the narrative to the viewer, the campaign not only created a more meaningful interaction, but also created great entertainment value for the consumer.


Children’s charity Plan U.K. created a thought-provoking outdoor ad, highlighting how women around the world are denied opportunities and choices on a daily basis. A digital billboard was installed at a bus stop on London’s Oxford Street, which used facial recognition technology to determine whether a man or woman was standing in front of the screen. Different content would then be played, with only women allowed to see the full 40-second ad.

This kind of evocative content can connect with a viewer in a more meaningful way as it plays into their sense of self. Facial recognition technology is not an intrusive tool that has been crowbarred into the creative but is the fulcrum of the ad’s message.


With consumers often overwhelmed of by the digital commercial landscape, where thousands of companies jockey for their time and money, facial recognition tech can be harnessed to help people make better decisions.

Expedia ran a campaign with the Hawaii Tourism Authority called Discover Your Aloha, in which viewers were shown a video montage of places and activities on Hawaii. With the viewer’s permission, facial recognition software identified which footage evoked the most positive reaction, and offers a discounted holiday package based on their preferences.

By utilizing this tech as a tool that assists the customer as well as the brand, companies can build symbiotic campaigns that work for both parties.