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 is a machine learning synthetic respondent trained to have content consumption interests that match a targeted population segment. Once created, Animated Personas 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 Animated Personas to client message tests always reflect current customer preferences.


What is the relationship between Animated Personas and humans?

Animated Personas are created from data obtained from research studies using human population segments, so they mirror the behavioral patterns, expressed desires, and preferences of the people within those segments. Once created, Animated Personas are plugged into the Internet, where they read and view material appropriate to their interests. The output from Personas is more accurately representative of population segments than the output from individual people because it relies on large data sets, 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 an Animated Persona in terms of the way each behaves?

An important difference is the large volume of information an Animated Persona reviews every day. While an individual human reads a small subset of the Internet, an Animated Persona examines a representative selection of the content that an entire population segment reads every day. PersonaPanels provides clients with access to the articles that each Animated Persona tags as interesting, helping you spot trends within the market segment that the Animated Persona represents.  This ability ensures that when you use Animated Personas for your advertising tests, new product tests, or other message-based research tests, you receive responses that reflect current trends and interests of large segments of the population encompassing hundreds, thousands, or even millions of people.  This gives you a better understanding of the preferences of your target market than is possible with individual people or small panels.


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

Just like humans, Animated 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, Animated Personas are relatively stable since there may be little variance in their reading. At other times, Animated Personas get “excited” about new topics that are related to their interests. As this exciting topic starts to age, Animated Personas, like humans, move on to other things.


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

Yes. PersonaPanels can create Animated Personas from a variety of sources, including a client’s own segmentation descriptions or information obtained from other research efforts.


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



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

PersonaPanels currently has a US Generational Synthetic Panel available for immediate use.

The US Generational Synthetic Panel is comprised of 4 distinct generations within the US population: Generation Z, Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers.  Each of these generations is comprised of 1-2 Animated Personas, depending on the variations we saw in the data when the generations were segmented.  You can use any or all of these Animated Personas in your research, depending on the market you are trying to target.

In addition to this already-created panel, we can custom create Synthetic Panels around your specific customer segments.

We will work with you to determine the type of panel that is best for you. If you would like to read more about these panel options, please visit the Our Panels page of our website.


What does an Animated Persona consist of?

An Animated Persona consists of a set of interest topics constructed in a taxonomy format based on the specific information used to build it.  A visual representation of this can be seen in Question 10.


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

Below is a visual representation of a simplified taxonomy connected to a hypothetical Animated Persona named Environmental Millennials.



How do Animated Personas stay current with market trends?

Once Animated Personas are created, they begin to access the Internet where they evolve in real time through a machine learning process that integrates relevant information into their programming.  The more aligned a piece of Internet content is with an Animated Persona’s interests, the more likely the Animated Persona is to be influenced by it.  The newly integrated information, in turn, informs their interests going forward, ensuring they stay current with market trends.


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

PersonaPanels directs Animated Personas to sites that are representative of the sites visited by their human segment equivalents.  For most consumer marketing efforts, these are the Alexa 500 Top Sites for a country, but for Animated Personas designed around segments with specialty knowledge, the sites may fall outside the Alexa 500 list.  When your research requires Animated Personas to access specialty online publications, we will discuss publications options with you.  Once on a site, an Animated Persona’s machine learning capabilities take over, allowing it to decide which articles hold interest for its represented population.  


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

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


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

Animated 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 Animated Persona. Once Animated Personas are created, the machine learning process scrapes tens of thousands of sources each day from the Internet and connects the most relevant content to the Animated Persona, given the Animated 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 Animated Personas access social media sites?

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


Can Animated Personas process sounds and images?

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


Can Animated Personas access YouTube videos?

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


Can Animated Personas access sites that require logins or subscriptions?

PersonaPanels has access to multiple subscription-based sites and can obtain access to others as long as doing so does not violate the site’s Terms of Service.  Please keep in mind, though, that if content from a restricted site is reproduced or quoted on other popular sites, as often happens with Internet content, the Animated Personas will run across it during the normal course of their reading.


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

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


Can Animated Personas be directed to specific content on the Internet?

Animated 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, we will ensure that the material an Animated Persona accesses on the Internet is reflective of its representative population segment. For example, a study among Animated Personas representing average consumers will access “popular” Internet sites that have high consumer traffic while a study among Animated Personas representing a specialty occupation will include specialty sites that the average consumer would not typically access (for instance, Animated Personas representing medical specialists could be directed toward specialist journals and forums).


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

No.  An Animated 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 Animated Persona’s own programmed and evolving characteristics, not by how long ago the Animated Persona was created.  This is also true of an Animated Persona’s responses to a client’s message or concept tests. This is one of the benefits of Animated Personas – they do not become static over time.


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

No, if they access it, they review it. However, just because an Animated Persona accesses a site, it doesn’t necessarily have interest in every article that appears on the site. Animated Personas will provide you with a list of the specific articles they found interesting, along with a score that tells you how interested or uninterested they were in the article.  Information within articles that received high interest scores becomes integrated into the Animated Persona’s memory through its machine learning capabilities. 


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

Animated 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 an Animated Persona’s areas of interest, there will be variance in how the Animated Persona is affected.


Do Animated Personas' interests evolve over time?



Why does an Animated Persona’s interests evolve over time?

The interests of an Animated Persona are influenced by what it reads given the set of interest topics associated with it. This means that an Animated Persona can start from one area of interest and be led to another area of interest until that topic and its many sub-topics fade from popularity. For example, an Animated Persona with interest in gaming may showing growing interest in a new game release if it’s encountering Internet excitement in the months prior to launch.  If the game receives negative reviews after its launch, the Animated Persona’s interest could start to wane.


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

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


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

If a client would like us to custom-create Animated Personas representing their specific customer base, we recommend that the Animated Personas be allowed to access the Internet for two weeks before testing begins. This ensures that they have had enough time to integrate current trends and information into their knowledge base. If you would like to use our existing US Generational Synthetic Panel, you can begin new concept and message testing immediately.


If what an Animated Persona reads can influence its reaction to a client's message tests, does what an Animated Persona read 3 months ago have as much impact as what it read last night?

Animated 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, also like humans, information that Animated Personas read can reinforce, expand, and/or nuance their opinions. This process, when applied to Animated Personas, is known as machine learning.  If an Animated Persona learned something of relevance 3 months ago that has been repeated and reinforced by other articles it has accessed since then, the impact of the article it read 3 months ago will remain high. If, however, that information stopped appearing in articles or was negated by more recent information, then the impact of the article accessed 3 months ago will have faded and have less of an impact than information read more recently.


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

Just like humans, an Animated 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, an Animated Persona’s interest in a message or idea occurs within the context of its “overall interests.” For example, when an Animated Persona is exposed to a marketing campaign, the Animated 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 Animated Persona’s overall interest areas interact?

In the simplified example below, a hypothetical client has created a message (“Message 1”) for a hypothetical Animated Persona to evaluate (“Environmental Millennials”), The Animated 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 Animated Persona’s overall interest score would be 40% because only 40% of the information in the message overlapped with the interest areas of the Animated Persona.



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

Animated Personas are composed of both permanent and transitory characteristics.  The permanent characteristics consist of attributes that have been programmed into the Animated Persona as part of its personality.  These traits remain consistent over time.  Animated Personas also read material on the web and are influenced by this material.  This material tends to have transitory influence over an Animated Persona unless the content is repeatedly reinforced by additional material over a prolonged period of time.  When an Animated 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 an Animated 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 Animated Persona’s preferences are changing or staying consistent over time.


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

Everyone involved in research knows that concept tests run between different human respondent groups or run at different periods in time among similar respondent groups seldom receive identical results and are most usefully employed for directional analysis.  The same is true of research run between human respondent groups and Animated Personas.  PersonaPanels has conducted validation tests and found that when human respondents and Animated Personas both represent the same population segment and are both employed during the same period of time, then results are directionally similar.


When an Animated 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 Animated Persona as the concept is being reviewed. How does a topic score relate to the overall interest score that an Animated Persona gives a client's concept?

An Animated Persona is constructed as a hierarchy of topics and sub-topics built to represent the mind of that Animated Persona. When a score is reported for one topic area, that shows how much overlap there is for just that topic.  A visual representation of this process can be seen in FAQ #34.


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

In the simplified example below, a hypothetical client has created a message or concept (“Message 1”) for a hypothetical Animated Persona to evaluate (“Environmental Millennials”).  The Animated 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 Animated Persona’s Topic Interest Score for the client’s message.



Are there any other statistical measures used in concept testing beyond Overall and Topic interest?

Yes.  When analyzing interest in your new product ideas, advertising messages, or any other text-based content such as websites, customer letters, email campaigns, and brochures, PersonaPanels will always begin by providing you with Overall interest scores (see FAQs 29 & 30 for an explanation of Overall interest). There are circumstances where this will be all the information you will want or need — such as when you are trying to rank order interest in multiple new product ideas before you develop them for market or when you want to decide which advertising message has the greatest chance of success before you spend money on art and media. 

There are other circumstances where you also will want to know Topic scores – such as when your new product ideas or advertising messages are not performing well and you want your target audience to provide other, related topics that might increase their interest.  With Topic scores, you are provided suggestions beyond, but related to, your message that you can consider incorporating into it in order to increase your target audiences’ interest (see FAQs 33 & 34).  Overall interest scores and Topic interest scores are always available within the pricing of any of our services, with the exception of PersonaPanels Monitoring, which tracks Internet trends.

Sometimes, however, you will want to know not only if your new product idea or new messaging campaign is interesting to your target audience, but why it is or isn’t interesting.  This is when you will want to use an additional statistical measure that we call Importance Testing.

Importance Testing begins with your product description, advertising message, or other customer communication and separates the content into component parts.  For example, a message may naturally lend itself to 3 components:  introductory section, informational section, concluding remarks.  Using this example, we would separate the message into those 3 sections and test each section individually to produce interest scores.  We then divide each individual interest score by the Overall interest score, producing a percentage total for each section.  This technique allows you to know what information within your message is driving interest.  You then can reformulate your message to accentuate positive drivers and minimize negative ones.


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

Let’s start with the important fact that Animated Personas do not get fatigued so the number of messages and concepts they’re willing to respond to and the length of time they’ll devote to an exercise need not be a factor in your research design. Next, unlike people, Animated Personas do not have ebbs & flows in concentration levels. Third, we know that respondents can answer questions in one way and behave in another. This is never the case with Animated Personas, which respond honestly and exhibit no tendency to try to “please the questioner.” Fourth, sometimes humans have issues that cause timeline delays in projects, resulting in missed deadlines. This will never happen with Animated Personas. Fifth, using Animated 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. Sixth, 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. Animated 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. Seventh, panels of Animated Personas can be accessed as often as a client desires, with no expensive incentives needed for respondent participation. Finally, Animated Personas have no response bias, evaluating each message or concept independently of others that have already been put in front of them. This, combined with Animated Personas’ quick response time, allows you to make as many minute changes in your messaging or concept tests as you want without going beyond your budget. 


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 entered into partnerships with several companies to help maximize our value to clients.  The Collaborative is a “one-stop” shop that coordinates health sciences research across multiple companies with diverse specialties, all under one supplier MSA.  Relative Insight provides text analytics software that allows clients to quickly and easily evaluate the data that is generated by PersonaPanels Monitoring.  FastFocus has a mobile platform that brings insights learned through our KnowNow Messaging service to Millennial human panelists.  Ironwood Insights Group designed and supports our user-friendly client dashboards. And Tanjo.ai developed the machine learning algorithms that underpin our system.  See “Our Partners” for more details.


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

The best traditional application of Animated Personas is concept and message testing.  In addition, Animated  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 Animated Personas?

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

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