In the early 2000s, a range of technologies came onto the consumer market offering the ability to operate a computer using just the eyes.
Targeted at the severely disabled, the hands-free computing systems allow them to place the mouse pointer anywhere on the screen simply by looking at the desired location. Mouse-replacement headsets track eye movement, with clicking literally done in the blink of an eye, or by staring (dwelling) at a spot. Disabled users could, for the first time, speak, send emails, browse the web and use increasingly complex systems for study and work.
Since then, the technology has become even more streamlined and has grown in usability, with multiple applications in engineering, driver safety, gaming and marketing.
Marketers have been especially keen to learn through eye tracking, not only how well their outdoor, television and online advertising is performing, but what aesthetic aspects their audiences are focusing on, especially in the cluttered world of social media.
It is all too easy to shift one’s attention to some other task while an intrusive video plays itself out, meaning that while information from data analytics might tell one story, the real reach of a piece of content can be hard to tell.
Also, with the rapid uptake of digital video recorder devices such as PVR and on-demand services such a Netflix and Showmax, viewers have much more control over what they are exposed to.
Eye tracking technology can reveal which specific parts of a video most viewers gravitate to (or ignore). However, available devices are still quite cumbersome and intrusive, needing further development before they are seamlessly integrated into everyday applications.
In the absence of a truly mass-marketable eye tracking system, it is more important than ever that producers create content that people want to see and even actively seek out.
For marketers, the aim should rather be to create content that achieves the highest possible return through a well thought-out creative strategy, dissemination plan and evaluation process.
The best content allows the consumer or viewer to gain a long-lasting benefit from spending their time watching the content and is, ultimately, a good story.
People should want to engage with the content and re-post as widely as possible. As long as the content is genuine, communicates the right message and doesn’t talk down to the consumer (they are smarter than most marketers give them credit for), people will want to view, comment on and share it.
The spray-and-pray approach of content dissemination does not work, and it is crucial to identify where the brand’s consumers are active and engaging the most.
Once published, the content can end up anywhere on the Internet, but every agency involved in the production should take great care in selecting lead channels.
In today’s world, driven by social media, YouTube and Facebook are key video channels, with Instagram becoming increasingly influential. The channels that should be avoided are those that are difficult to use, understand or track.
Once a highly creative, useful piece of content has made it onto the right channels, its impact must be quantified and analysed for future campaigns.
Platforms such as YouTube allow advertisers to target the content to audiences with specific tastes. Tools such as Google’s Brand Lift can then offer information about the age ranges and genders most drawn by a campaign on the video-sharing site.
While the number of shares, likes and comments are readily available on the user interface, analytics tools allow for deeper insights about reach, frequency and click-through rates.
However, this should not be a replacement for direct, sustained customer engagements.
Without the preliminary legwork on a targeted creative strategy, channel selection and a relationship with the customer, the investment into expensive measurement technology is better spent elsewhere.
Even with the most sophisticated eye-tracking technology, should a video be created without the right initial steps, any insights learned will only reveal a hollow message and a lack of connection. In short, analysis shouldn’t be limited to the post-mortem stage, but should be conducted before, during and after the campaign has run its course.
By Darren Kerr, Executive Producer and Director at 10th Street