Yesterday Wf360's summer intern, Ariane Blumentritt and I were treated to a private tour of Time Warner's MediaLab facility, right smack in the heart of Columbus Circle in Manhattan. Carolyn Seergy, who manages the facility, gave us the tour herself and she knows her stuff. Carolyn has been involved in MediaLab since its inception and it's clear she has plans to employ the lab's facilities in innovative ways both for Time Warner's purposes and those of Time Warner clients.
Opened in January of this year, the MediaLab is an impressive facility. Time Warner has covered over 9600 square feet of prime office space to put to work totally cool technology, all devoted to the effort to understand better the wishes and desires of the all-important consumer.
Whether it is the consumer buying soda in a grocery store, or deciding which things to look at on a website, or what ads spark interest during the Super Bowl, the MediaLab is designed to help companies figure out what consumers like--what content they prefer, how they like to watch, read or listen to devices and which devices they use for certain tasks.
The MediaLab consists of several different scenarios from a living room to a computer room to a 3D movie theatre with infrared cameras to record reactions in the dark. There is even a faux convenience store offering magazines and snacks. Everything is outfitted with technologies that one might use during leisure time. The lab also users biometrics, placing sensors on the body that can figure out people's emotional responses through sometimes unconscious physical reactions. And in one of the scenarios, there is a station that tracks users eye movements to determine the optimal design for a webpage.
Time Warner itself can put the technologies to good use since it is a media company with many different approaches to reach and delight the consumer. This is the perfect place to test Time Warner programs and products. And Time Warner clients--from Procter & Gamble to cosmetics firms--can use the MediaLab to advantage as well.
I'm such a face-to-face aficionado that this kind of deep dive into efforts to map people's personal reactions and responses on both a physical and emotional basis is daunting and a bid off-putting in a Big Brother sense. I suppose it is the kind of effort major companies need to take to be more effective in the kind of "conversation" they initiate and try to sustain with their customer base. This is not about casually random efforts to see if someone likes your stuff; this is about scientifically controlled and measured methods to determine how best to engage with a customer.
What I would love to see is what an Inner Circle like those we produce at Wf360, would look like if we were able to gauge people's emotional responses to what is being said around the table. It would be fascinating to see if what people are saying to one another reflects their verbal response to what others are saying. How authentically do Inner Circle participants comments reflect what they are actually feeling? Now that could be revealing. And would provoke, no doubt, a whole new conversation.