The Data of Things: Bringing Viewability and Engagement to the Real World

As of late, viewability has been a hot topic in the industry. And it certainly is not without good reason – why would advertisers pay for placements that are never shown if the technology is there to tell them the ads haven’t been shown? You can still hardly talk about display advertising without a horde of different opinions, but if I personally cannot remember the last banner I looked at (and I’ll be generous and say I notice one about every 3 days), then why do we expect banners to be remotely effective with banner blindness, bots AND viewability working against us? At least fix the easy one.

From what I’ve noticed, online display advertising has come to be so highly demanded a product not simply for its scale, but also largely for its remarkable data. Rightfully so. The ability to target the right audiences, retarget our best customers, and learn which half of our advertising is working through clicks, engagement and conversion metrics has added the greatest value to the industry yet. But there’s an even more intriguing prospect in the future of engagement and viewability – and and it’s bringing it into the real world.

Not too long ago Google patented “gaze tracking” for its pet project, Glass. Essentially, advertisers may eventually be able to use Google’s eye sensors as a perennial eye tracking system integrated into everyday life – no focus groups necessary. Was your billboard in-sight, noticed or even interacted with in Times Square? Was your TV spot watched, or did the viewer change the channel or skip the ads altogether? Like impressions, TV ratings and magazine circulations have never equaled views either. However, as with increasing demands for viewability and engagement in online display advertising, soon we may have the technology to start holding our traditional advertising accountable to better metrics, too.

Google Glass

With the idea of eye-tracking disseminated into the mainstream, the possibilities for measurement and better insights are absolutely enormous. Tracking could extend in-store to reveal what products are being considered and what displays are effective. It could finally bridge the user journey from the digital to the real world, answering the ever-frustrating question, did your impression lead to an in-store sale? Ultimately, Glass could track attention in its entirety, bringing a whole new meaning to the idea of advertisers vying for people’s “eyeballs.”

On top of it all, Glass could add mounds of engagement. Just this week Google filed another patent for a heart hand gesture, suggesting the technology may eventually be able to “like” content or objects by recognizing specific signs, such as a heart symbol. Such augmented reality could eventually allow us to use our fingers to “click” on in-sight advertisements for more information and content extras, or even allow us to shortlist the items right in front of us in a store. Considering its acquisition of gestural technology company Flutter last week, could we start to see interacting in an augmented reality via Google Glass even sooner than we expected?

Of course there are entire novels of privacy concerns that such new technology will confront.  Just today the EU moved to create stricter privacy measures in the wake of the Snowden/NSA scandal. Yet at the end of the day, the biggest question of all still remains, will it ever even catch on?


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