What exactly is machine-learning as it relates to artificial intelligence?

Machine learning, at the intersection of technology and behavioral research, is a field of computer science that gives computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed. AI is broader. Anything that can make a machine or software do something that would usually require a thinking person is artificial intelligence.


What is an animated Persona?

An animated Persona (Persona) is a machine learning agent trained to have content consumption interests that match a targeted population segment. Once created, Personas autonomously access the Internet where they keep abreast of content that is of interest to the segment they represent.  This ability allows clients to spot changing trends within their target market and ensures that the responses of Personas to client message tests always reflect current customer preferences.


What is the relationship between Personas and humans?

Personas mirror the behavioral patterns, expressed desires, and preferences of actual human population segments. Once created, Personas are plugged into the Internet, where they read and view material appropriate to their interests. For segmentation research, the output from Personas is more accurately representative than the output from individual people because it relies on something closer to a census, so clients get a profile of behavior that cannot be obtained from small samples of respondents that may not be representative of their respective universes.


What is an important difference between a human and a Persona in terms of the way each behaves?

An important difference is the large volume of information a Persona reviews every day. While an individual human is exposed to a small subset of the Internet and reviews information sporadically, a Persona represents a large population segment and examines large amounts of content every day. Essentially, a Persona speeds up the learning process compared to a human since more information is reviewed in a shorter period of time.


What is an important similarity between a human and a Persona in terms of the way each behaves?

Just like humans, Personas’ current interests and reading material influence what they look at in the future. Consequently, their interests can change over time, as happens with humans. Sometimes, as is also the case with humans, Personas are relatively stable since there may be little variance in their reading. At other times, Personas get “excited” about new topics that are related to their interests. As this exciting topic starts to age, Personas, like humans, move on to other things.


Can data from a traditional research effort be used to create Personas?

Yes. PersonaPanels can create Personas from a variety of sources, including data from a client’s previous research efforts, data from other sources such as Nielsen Homescan or Spectra, a client’s own segmentation descriptions, and more.


Can different data sets be combined and then used to construct Personas?



Does PersonaPanels have existing panels of Personas that can be used or must panels always be custom created?

PersonaPanels currently has two panels of Personas available for immediate use: our Millennial panel, comprised of 6 distinct segments of the U.S. millennial market, and our Homescan panel, which was developed using data from Nielsen’s Homescan households and is available for use by companies that are existing Nielsen clients.  Both panels provide insight into the concerns and trends of important market segments.  We also can custom create Persona panels that mirror a client’s current or targeted customers, along with the purchase patterns and attitudinal characteristics of this population segment.  We work with clients to determine what type of panel best meets their research needs.


What does a Persona consist of?

A Persona consists of a set of interest topics constructed in a taxonomy format based on the specific information used to build it.


Can you provide a visual representation of the taxonomy behind Personas?

Below is a visual representation of a simplified taxonomy connected to one of our millennial Personas, named Environmental Millennials.



How do Personas stay current with market trends?

Once Personas are created, they begin to access the Internet where they evolve in real time, scanning the web and viewing tens of thousands of pieces of content that are most interesting to them. Personas are affected by what they see, and that informs their interests going forward. Personas have interests that evolve based on what they are exposed to and the relative popularity of the material they have seen. The more aligned a piece of content is with the Persona’s interests, the more likely that Persona is to be influenced by it and to change over time.This ability to evolve ensures that Persons stay current with market trends.


Does PersonaPanels designate all the sites that Personas visit or do Personas operate on their own once they are given a foundation of sites?

Personas operate on their own once they have been created. although we do have the ability to direct them to read specific sources if our clients desire.


Why is it important to know what a Persona is viewing and how interested it is in the material?

On its own, what a Persona is reading reveals current customer trends. More importantly, though, Personas incorporate the things they find interesting into their personalities, just as human beings do. This ensures that when we pose research questions to the Personas, we will get responses that reflect each Persona’s current view. This also ensures that we can conduct research with Personas at different periods of time to see if attitudes toward products are changing.


How does a Persona measure its interest in the Internet content it reads?

Personas can be built based on multiple data sets covering everything from demographics to purchase habits to survey responses and more. These data sets come together and form an array of interest graphs for each Persona. Once Personas are created, the machine learning process scrapes 30,000+ sources each day from the Internet and connects the most relevant content to the Persona, given the Persona’s particular interest graphs. An interest score for every piece of content is created by matching the content against the interest graph. The higher the interest score, the more closely it matches up against the interest graph.


Do Personas access social media sites?

No, these sites are not accessed because the posts are not reliably long enough.


Can Personas process sounds and images?

No, not at this time, but it is a future goal. However, if images can be described in words, Personas can read the descriptions.


Can Personas access YouTube videos?

Yes, but the videos will need transcriptions. If transcriptions are present, Personas can read them.


Can Personas access sites that require logins or subscriptions?

Personas do not normally access sites that require logins or subscriptions. However, if a client needs particular sites with login requirement to be accessed, we can direct the Personas to do so as long as this does not violate the site’s Terms of Service.  If content from a restricted site is reproduced or quoted on other popular sites, as often happens with Internet content, the Personas will run across it during the normal course of their reading.


Can Personas distinguish between advertisements and articles when they access a website?

Yes. Personas are able to make this distinction and will not read advertisements.


Can Personas be directed to specific content on the Internet?

Personas normally are allowed to autonomously select the content they read in order to provide clients with an unbiased insight into trends within a population segment.  However, if a client’s research requires it, we can customize the journey of a Persona. For example, we can define the geographic regions a Persona accesses to ensure information is reviewed from a global perspective.


As Personas mature, do they become less interested in what they read on the Internet or are shown by clients?

No, a Persona’s interest in the material it reads on the Internet is only impacted by the content of the material and how aligned that content is with the Persona’s own programmed and evolving characteristics, not by how long ago the Persona was created.  This is also true of a Persona’s responses to a client’s message or concept tests. This is one of the benefits of Personas – they do not become static over time.


Do Personas ever go to a site and then decide not to review something?

No, if they access it, they review it. However, just like humans, sometimes they show more, or less, interest in what they’ve seen, so we only record sites where they have shown a statistically significant interest.


Do Personas evolve at an even pace or, like humans, is there great variance in terms of the degree to which they integrate information?

Personas are affected by what is going on in the wider web. If a lot of activity is happening one day and less another within a Persona’s areas of interest, there will be variance in how the Persona is affected.


Do Personas' interests evolve over time?



Why does a Persona’s interests evolve over time?

The interests of a Persona are influenced by what it reads given the set of interest topics associated with the Persona. This means that a Persona can start from one area of interest and be led to another area of interest until that topic and its many sub-topics fades from popularity. For example, the “Environmental Millennials” Persona may be very interested in a new game that is months from launch because of everything it has read. At some point just after its launch, if the game received negative reviews, the Persona’s interest could start to wane.


Once Personas are created, how quickly do their interests begin to evolve?

Personas can begin to integrate new information and evolve new interests within twenty-four hours of being created.


Once Personas are created, how quickly can a client's new concepts and message tests be evaluated by them?

Once the Personas have been created and begin to acquire information, messaging and concepts can be put in front of them immediately.


If what a Persona reads can influence its reaction to a client's message tests, is there a “filter” placed on this review process? In other words, does what a Persona read 3 months ago have as much impact as what it read last night?

Personas are like humans in the sense that their core values and personality traits will always have the greatest impact on their reaction to the concepts and messages that clients put in front of them, but information they read also can impact their reactions. The degree to which online material influences their current views is a combination of the degree of interest they have in the material and how recently the material was accessed. So articles with lower interest scores have less influence on the Persona’s current views and responses to client message tests than articles with high interest scores, just as articles that were accessed weeks or months ago have less influence than articles accessed yesterday.


When a Persona is exposed to a client's message or concept test, what is the “overall interest score” that is produced?

Just like humans, a Persona’s interest in a message or idea never occurs in isolation, but instead is influenced by all its experiences and preferences. In other words, a Persona’s interest in a message or idea occurs within the context of its “overall interests.” For example, when a Persona is exposed to a marketing campaign, the Persona takes into account all its interests before it decides if and how much it likes the campaign.


Can you provide a visual illustration of how the client's message and the Persona’s overall interest areas interact?

In the simplified example below, a client has created a message (“Message 1”) for one of our Personas to evaluate (“Environmental Millennials”), The Persona accesses the entirety of its programmed interests and the interests acquired by it during its machine learning phases and determines the percentage of alignment between the client’s message and it’s own interests.  This becomes the Persona’s “Overall Interest” in the client’s message.  In this illustration, the Persona’s overall interest score would be 40% because only 40% of the information in the message overlapped with the particular interest areas of the Persona.



When a client’s concept is put in front of a Persona and the Persona gives the concept an overall interest score, is the score cumulative in nature (reflecting everything the Persona has experienced throughout its life)?

Personas are composed of both permanent and transitory characteristics.  The permanent characteristics consist of attributes that have been programmed into the Persona as part of its personality.  These traits remain consistent over time.  Personas also read material on the web and are influenced by this material.  This material tends to have transitory influence over a Persona unless the content is repeatedly reinforced by additional material over a prolonged period of time.  When a Persona evaluates a client’s message or concept, it pulls from both its permanent and transitory influences, resulting in message scores that reflect whatever is going on with a Persona at that particular moment, similar to a human when survey questions are being answered at that moment-in-time. However, scores can be captured at specific time intervals to see how the Persona’s preferences are changing or staying consistent over time.


Can the Persona’s interest in a concept be compared with a human's interest in the same concept?

Yes, the results can be compared as long as the Persona and the human represent a similar segment of the population. For example, we can put your ad in front of a consumer and in front of a Persona representing a similar consumer segment and create 5 quantiles (0-20, 21-40, 41-60, 61-80, 81-100) for their answers to fall into and then compare results.


When a Persona is reviewing a concept, it not only produces an overall interest score for that concept, it also reveals a topic that is resonating with the Persona as the concept is being reviewed. How does a topic score relate to the overall interest score that a Persona gives a client's concept?

A Persona is constructed as a hierarchy of topics and sub-topics built to represent the mind of that Persona. When an score is reported for one topic area, that shows how much overlap there is for just that topic.


Can you provide a visual illustration of how the interest score of the primary topic is determined when a Persona reviews a client's messages or concepts?

In the simplified example below, a client has created a message or concept (“Message 1”) for one of our millennial Personas to evaluate (“Environmental Millennials”).  The Persona accesses the hierarchy of topics and subtopics built into its programming and acquired by it during its time on the Internet (“Topic 1”, “Topic 2”, “Topic 3,” “Topic 4”).  It then selects the topic that best aligns with the message (in this example, “Topic 3”).  The degree of overlap between the client’s message and the topic is the Persona’s Topic Interest Score for the client’s message.



What are some of the advantages of conducting research through Personas as opposed to traditional research methods?

Let’s start with the important fact that Personas do not get fatigued so the number of questions they’re willing to answer and the length of time they devote to an exercise is not a factor. Next, traditional research uses relatively small sample sizes, whereas with Personas, we can move more toward a census. Third, there tends to be a variance in concentration among respondents. Personas do not have ebbs & flows in concentration levels. Fourth, we know that respondents can answer questions in one way and behave in another. This is never the case with Personas, which respond honestly and exhibit no tendency to try to “please the questioner.” Fifth, sometimes humans have issues that cause timeline delays in projects, resulting in missed deadlines. This will never happen with Personas. Sixth, using Personas for your research needs allows you to maximize privacy since sensitive topics are not being reviewed by humans. In traditional research, these sensitive topics can leak out in unintended ways, causing problems for the client company. Seventh, most research engagements represent a point in time when data was acquired through respondents. More often than not, the data ages quickly and its value to decision-making fades. Personas’ machine learning capabilities mean that they are constantly evolving to reflect current market trends resulting in data that is always up-to-date and relevant. Finally, panels of Personas can be accessed as often as a client desires, with no expensive incentives needed for respondent participation. Repeatable experiments result in better strategic decision-making.


What company is behind the technology used by PersonaPanels?

PersonaPanels works with Tanjo, a dynamic leader in the field of artificial intelligence.


Has PersonaPanels established any partnerships at this time?

Yes, PersonaPanels has been accepted in Nielsen’s Connect Partner Network and has developed Personas using the vast Nielsen Homescan database. Nielsen’s Connect Partner Network is an elect group with inclusion based on innovation.


What types of traditional research lend themselves to the use of Personas?

The best traditional application of Personas is concept and message testing.  In addition, Personas have a “non-traditional” ability to monitor Internet material that is appealing to their market segment in order to help clients identify evolving customer interests.


Are there certain types of research that would not be appropriate for Personas?

Yes. One example would be message recall work with respondents who saw sales representatives. This would not be an appropriate application for Personas.

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