Reimagining attention: Boosting advert effect with eye tracking insights

  • by Tobii
  • 6 min

Woman looking at a mobile

The field of advertising research is at somewhat of an impasse. Here’s two things we know…

We know that most potential customers are spending more of their time in front of their mobile devices, but we’re also painfully aware that we’re struggling to engage them across all their different social platforms. With the sheer variety of ad options available to marketers, from Instagram stories to LinkedIn banners, picking the right format for their content can be the difference between a campaign that flies or falters.

Let’s be honest, the approach until now for analyzing ad effectiveness has been a little rudimentary. While we can analyze advert impressions, view time, click through rate, and come to broad conclusions, we far too easily kid ourselves into believing we have the full picture. Where these metrics fail is in their limited understanding of the nature of attention. Without knowing exactly how various advertisements demand different levels of attention in certain channels, you end up making decisions with only 50% of the picture. That’s a great way to go 100% in the wrong direction!

Woman looking at instagram on mobile

Breaking the mold

P&G wanted to explore this idea further, and so brought in data consultancy Dentsu Data Labs at the media network Dentsu to help prepare them with a more effective awareness campaign. They also decided to use Tobii, to help them get beyond the guesswork and find out how their content was authentically being received. For Dentsu’s study, the tool that worked best for them was Sticky by Tobii since it allowed them to conduct their own bespoke experiment on their user’s personal devices. Sticky helped them to set up a mock-up flow for a popular photo sharing app, meaning that participants could interact with adverts in real time on their own devices while having their attention tracked.

The results of the study helped to reframe their mobile advertising priorities. P&G found that the time a user dwells on an advert, or the time a video plays for, does not equal what they pay attention to. When considering the movement of the eyes, the areas of focus, and the attention journey, it becomes clear that the actions of the device alone do not paint the full picture. For example, certain video ads demanded the lion’s share of attention when measured by time viewable, but Sticky showed that the users themselves only physically viewed a small portion of the ad’s total length. So, did that ad really do its job?

Dentsu and P&G’s study with Sticky exposed something fundamentally unstable about the way in which we leverage advertising insights. If we don’t fully understand the myriad ways attention can be dispersed across a digital format, then we will continue to use the wrong instruments with which to measure it. Their research has made it clear that ads on social platforms can perform well, which is good news. But now Dentsu are primed to design their next advertising campaign with P&G equipped with knowledge about the ad formats that justify higher bids, and those ads that seem effective yet regularly come in under par. Their creative team also got a rare inside look at how they can better design their content to grab attention and hold it for longer.

Where do we go from here?

Eye tracking has entered the fold at a crucial time for the advertising industry, and the potential applications of software like Sticky by Tobii are exciting researchers. Being able to commission your own bespoke study like P&G means you can visualize the effects of your advertisements in controlled settings, giving you a head start on the competition.

As attention becomes more and more of a commodity, companies that understand how to read and capture it are going to start lapping those who don’t. At this pivotal moment in the field of advertising research, reliable attention data is making the difference between incisive and focused advertising campaigns, and campaigns that simply throw out a wide net.

It’s time for us to evolve our concept of what consumer attention means, and in doing so, we’ll better understand how our content is truly being received in the real-world. When it comes to customer insights, it doesn’t get much better than that.

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