I read with great interest that Google has filed a patent for Pay Per Gaze advertising, leveraging the power of the upcoming wearable computing/wearable tech trend. Whether or not they choose to use it, I think the concept has the potential to help answer one of the most long-standing questions in marketing analytics: the power of offline.
Here's why. Eye-tracking studies are notoriously expensive and scale very poorly. They require tightly controlled conditions, cumbersome equipment, and may have measurement issues (it's harder to behave naturally in a test environment). As a result, we don't have the same body of research about overall offline brand impact that we do for online, where we can measure things like where someone's mouse moved on screen.
That will change as wearable computing technologies with eye tracking built into them become more prevalent. Data collected from eye-tracking information transmitted by wearable computing after a user has become accustomed to their wearable devices may give a much more usable result than trying to do an eye-tracking study outdoors and moving around today, or surveying and relying on people's (flawed) memories of what they saw.
What will this answer?
You know all of those offline brand impressions? Billboards. Logos. T-shirts. Spotlights at car dealerships at night. Blimps. Magazine ads. Newspaper quarter page ads. Brands on baseball fields. Even non-visual interruption marketing like loud noises that make you turn to look for them. All of these are offline attempts at catching your attention. How many of them work? How many of them deliver any kind of real brand impression at all?
Now we'll know. It may not be Google Glass, but it will be some kind of wearable computing that can transmit that data back to marketers and advertisers as to what really works. Believe it or not, this could be a good thing for society at large. After all, if advertisers suddenly find out that plastering their logo all over everything goes completely unnoticed and unheeded (as we believe it does anecdotally), the data will suggest they find more effective ways of advertising instead of visual pollution, unless the data shows that visual pollution is actually effective.
This is the future ROI of offline advertising, and it will happen as part of the wearable computing trend.
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