In a development that could make the viewability debate moot for many advertisers, a promising eye-tracking technology company has had a breakthrough that will dramatically lower the costs -- and ease of access -- to brands, agencies, publishers and others that want to benchmark the performance of their advertising.
It's not based on whether consumers had an opportunity to see ads, but whether they actually saw them.
Sticky, the eye-tracking firm that utilizes low-cost Web and mobile device cameras to capture the fixation of consumers’ eyes on ads on their screens, has come up with a way to dramatically lower the costs of fielding such research. It is poised to launch a “self-serve” platform that will enable anyone to measure what is actually being seen at a fraction of the cost, time and set-up of previous solutions.
“Eye-tracking has been around a long time,” notes Sticky president Jeff Bander, adding: “but it’s been expensive and time-consuming to implement."
Bander said that Sticky’s initial breakthrough reduced the costs of conventional eye-tracking by 50% over conventional methods, but the new approach reduces that to as little as $100 per page being analyzed, versus historical costs of as much as $10,000 per page.
Instead of taking weeks to field and get results, the new approach can be turned around in as little as “minutes.”
Part of the breakthrough comes from the fact that Sticky has essentially built an ongoing panel of consumers who are incentivized to opt into studies on-the-fly, giving it a continuous database of eye-tracking that can be turned on or off at customer’s whim. The system also enables users to effectively “pre-test” the likelihood that an ad will be seen based on a database of norms for similar ads on similar publishers' pages, and to set up and begin testing on live users immediately.
Bander said the self-serve platform will go live this month, and that Sticky is working on getting the costs down even more, ideally bringing to as low as “$50 per page,” which he says will make it affordable enough for even tiny brands or small retailers to leverage.
One of the significant components of Sticky’s so-called “Seen Metric” is that it also enables brands and agencies to go beyond tracking the likelihood that an ad’s creative will be seen, to the propensity of it being seen on different publishers’ pages, thereby becoming a media planning, buying and post-evaluation tool not just for creative but for media.
Sticky has spent much of the past couple of years trying to sell the concept of the Seen Metric through to the research and planning community, presenting data, case studies and use cases at Advertising Research Foundation conferences and in one-on-ones.
Now it is trying to extend it into the media planning and buying community to give it even more utility. The affordability of the new self-serve model, Bander says, should give more planners, buyers and advertisers the opportunity to experiment and see how their ads perform on different publishers pages. That could ultimately lead to more efficient media schedules or better price negotiations.“A brand running a campaign typically spend a significant amount of money testing the campaign on their high CPM placements -- page takeovers on Yahoo, that sort of thing,” Bander explains. “Now it will be affordable enough for them to test their campaigns on lower CPM pages to see what kind of results they get.”
In a recent analysis of the same ads on five news publishers sites, Sticky found a significant range, with 44% of AOL News viewers actually seeing it vs. only 24% on CBS News.