Apple V Microsoft ‘Sensum-Style’ at NI Science Park

Ni Sciencepark

The Aim?

To use the Sensum mobile platform to test some of N.Ireland’s science & tech heads with a pair of ads from two titans of the tech world, Apple & Microsoft, to see which brand elicits the greater emotional response from viewers.

The How?

To gather the necessary data for the A/B test Sensum ran the testing event at the Northern Ireland Science Park, the innovation hub for tech start-ups in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter.

Over a couple of hours we tested 25 individuals, male & female, with age ranges 18-24, 25-34 & 35-44.

We recorded individuals GSR [galvanic skin response] signals over the duration of the 2 advertisements and asked questions about how they felt about each brand’s attempts to lure them to their ‘side’.

The Videos

These were the 2 advertisements that we tested :

[The Apple iPad 3 Retina Display advertisement]

Apple as an established product are focusing on special features that can assist it’s users to be better specifically with it’s picture and video functions. As such it is informational but again with strong aspirational language “Everything is more brilliant”.

The core target market of middle and upper income people willing to pay more for a better experience are the main focus.

The pacing of the ad is slower, using recognisable music from previous ads, and only runs for 30 seconds.The choice of children pictures and videos is specifically aimed at parents who want to record and playback those precious memories in the best possible definition.

[The Microsoft Surface advertisement]

The advertisement is a message of college life, school life, work life all integrating & you can have fun between work & play.

As a new product on the market it’s aim is to be aspirational and that anyone can use it no matter what your mobile use is.

There’s no mention of Windows 8, there’s no mention of the various apps, or device capabilities other than the snap back & keyboard. The advertisement’s core product message that it’s cover is a keyboard and that it can snap in with anyone’s tablet is an obvious differentiator between the Surface and other tablets.

It looks like they’re going for a younger market with a high energy ad with dancing, deep bass frequency and pacey music, along with a regular speed of visual transitions.

The Test Results

Already owned a device?

We asked what percentage of people owned an Apple iPad or Microsoft Surface to see if that would influence the results. 44% said they owned an iPad compared to 4% owning a Surface.

Seen it before?

We also asked people if they had seen either of the advertisements before in case that would influence their responses. In both cases the number of people who were sure they had seen it was less than a quarter of the sample so we felt it wouldn’t be detrimental to the participant responses.

Apple iPad 3

Microsoft Surface

What did you think of the media?

We asked what people thought of the media after they had watched it and almost all of the response to the Apple advertisement was positive with 88% farily good or very good. Microsoft on the other hand had 36% neutral, not very good or not good at all responses. This may have been due to the very obvious Apple bias from those who already owned the devices and were brand loyal already.

Apple iPad 3

Microsoft Surface

Describe your emotion

We asked what emotion people felt after they watched the media across a selection of 16 different emotions and we’ve displayed the top 4 for each advertisement.

Both brands acheived a relatively high level of 'Interest’ with Apple succeeding in generating 44% against Microsoft’s 36%.

The 2nd rated emotion for both were very interesting, where Apple engendered 'Acceptance’ [possibly as it was felt to be the test subjects’ favourite] and Microsoft caused 'Annoyance’, both with 16% of the participants.

3rd place for both created different results [12% for both] again on the positive side for Apple with 'Serenity’ and negative for Microsoft with 'Boredom’.

And in 4th place, with 8% for both, there was 'Trust’ in Apple, again probably due to their natural bias towards the brand, and Microsoft generated 'Joy’ probably due to the tech-oriented test audience enjoying the product and fun nature of the advertisement.

Apple iPad 3

Microsoft Surface

Did the advertisement change your opinion on the brand?

It was important for us to see if the advertisement had changed the audience impression of the brand, especially since there was such bias in product ownership.

It was clear that the Apple devotees wouldn’t have changed their opinion about a product they love with 92% stating that the advertisement made no impact. But what was of interest was that over a quarter of this same audience, 28%, was affected by the Microsoft advertisement and that it had changed their opinion of the brand. Perhaps if Microsoft made a few more of these advertisements the tide could begin to turn in Microsoft’s favour? That might be a big ask of Apple lovers but definitely not to be ruled out.

How did the GSR response stack up against the conscious responses?

Apple iPad 3


[The colours or graph are the same as the info boxes for each demographic filter applied. Blue for 18-24, purple for 25-34 and green for 35-44.]

As you can see in the results the Apple advertisement was most effective for the 25-34 year olds with their graph showing the high engagement across the whole duration.

The 18-24 year olds had a shorter attention & engagement with their graph dropping off half way through, and all 3 age ranges were engaged at their highest for the same period in the first half of the advertisement.

The overall Sensum score, which is a single score for the effectiveness of that piece of media was above average at 54.28, where 50-65 is a ‘Good’ response.

It’s interesting to consider whether the acceptance in the Apple brand being ‘Good’ caused all 3 age ranges to ‘switch-off’ more rapidly as they saw the brand & message & had moved on to other things in their minds, whereas with the Microsoft product, perhaps due to it being a new product, held people’s engagement to the end of the advertisement.

The Apple iPad graphs for all 3 demographics are also smoother than the Microsoft one demonstrating less distraction, less audiovisual bombardment, and potentially more focus on the voice and product demonstration.

Microsoft Surface


[The colours or graph are the same as the info boxes for each demographic filter applied. Blue for 18-24, green for 25-34 and purple for 35-44.]

As a 1 minute long ad it has to keep people’s attention for that duration, which it does successfully due to the decisions in cuts, choreography, pacing, and music movement, so the pacing of the ad has kept people engaged, but the overall effect of the advertisement hasn’t moved any one in particular, and least of all the 18-24 market.

The first 10 seconds establishes pretty people using the product and introduces intrigue with the sound and sight of the snap covers; this is the highest moment of engagement for all 3 demographics across the ad.

The 35-44 year olds have switched off quickest within this 10 seconds and slowly engage again across the whole ad; strangely the bass frequencies don’t even cause an uplift for any demographic when the music kicks in; the music definitely helps but only slowly over the next part of the ad as it’s like an attempt at orchestral dubstep which feels like it only succeeds in placing itself mildly in the middle of demographics, appealing to none, and as such not affecting any in any large way.

You can see that the Microsoft advertisement was most effective for the 25-34 year olds with their graph showing the high engagement across the whole duration closely followed by the 35-44 year olds.

This time instead of dropping off half way through the 18-24 year olds stayed engaged throughout the advertisement.

The overall Sensum score was 45.94, where 35-49 is an ‘Average’ response, so even though there was engagement throughout it suggests that it didn’t peak people’s interest as much as the Apple advertisement

The Conclusions

Did the fact that 44% people compared to 4% owning the devices make an impact? It definitely had an impact on the results but not to the extent that one might have thought.


The Sensum score was pretty much the same coming in at 54% for Apple and 46% for Microsoft.

Apple iPad 3


Microsoft Surface


So we can officially announce that the N.Irish tech-head community of the Science Park preferred the Apple iPad advertisement to the Microsoft Surface one, but considering that so many of them already owned iPads it showed that Microsoft weren’t that far off in the effectiveness of their message.

There is still some work on the overall impression of the brand that Microsoft needs to address as there doesn’t seem to be the confidence in the product that there is with Apple, nevertheless as a strong brand that everyone is familiar with the Surface seemed to generate some interest and the advertisement had an overall positive effect for the Microsoft brand on this audience.

Congratulations to the Apple iPad 3 advertisement for winning, and thanks very much to the Northern Ireland Science Park for their assistance in this test, and a big thank you for all the folks who took the time to do the test with us.

For those wanting to know who won the Amazon voucher for taking part it was Jenna White from NISP. Hope you spent it unwisely Jenna.