When it comes to online viewability, there should be more than meets the eye.
That’s the philosophy at Sticky, an eye-tracking tech company launching a DIY version of its online research product, Autogazer, on Thursday. The tool is designed to enable users – primarily agencies, brands and publishers – to run unlimited tracking studies for a set monthly fee.
A single eye-tracking study can often cost in the neighborhood of $50,000 or more, but the Autogazer price tag comes in at roughly one-twentieth that cost.
It would be easy to confuse Sticky for a viewability solution provider, but it’s not exactly that, said Sticky President and CRO Ephraim “Jeff” Bander.
“Viewability is great, it’s a good step, but it’s only a step,” Bander told AdExchanger.
That’s because there’s a nuance between the potential to be seen and actually being seen – and as the IAB standards stand right now, there isn’t much room for nuance between the two. If 50% of an ad’s pixels are in view for one second, that’s counted as a viewable ad. Up that to two seconds and the same goes for in-browser video.
But considering that more than half of ads, about 54%, are not considered viewable, according to data from comScore, that leaves a somewhat diminished landscape from the get-go.
Sticky aims to move beyond viewability with what it’s calling the “SEEN” metric, a data point that calibrates which ads consumers are focusing on and paying attention to with the actual eyeballs in their actual heads. (Speaking of actual eyeballs, the interactive nature of the Sticky tech means that its clients never run into bot-related issues while running test campaigns.)
It’s hard to get more definitive than that, Bander said. Since Sticky first hit the scene in 2012 after hooking up with Swedish eye-tracking hardware company Tobii and rebranding from the more literally named EyeTrackShop, it’s been working with agencies, publishers and brand clients – including AOL, iHeartMedia (formerly Clear Channel), GroupM and P&G – to do market research and determine online display performance.
In one recent case, Sticky worked with L’Oreal Canada, the brand’s digital engagement platform, Oboxmedia, and rich-media ad-targeting platform GumGum to test the creative in the summer campaign for L’Oreal’s Vichy anti-aging products. About 73% of the campaign's display ads, which were placed within images on publisher sites based on the hair color of the women who appeared in the photos, were considered viewable, 100% of which were seen, generating a 2.27% click-through rate.
The technology works by accessing a user’s webcam, a process that is 100% opt-in. “We’re not the NSA, so we have to ask permission,” Bander quipped.
When people opt in, they give Sticky permission to turn on their webcam for specific web pages only; when they leave the designated test page or pages, the camera automatically switches off.
With the opt-in secured, clients can either test their campaign with a predetermined panel – say a shampoo brand looking for feedback from women aged 25 to 49 – or with a cross-section of the population at large. Sticky has access to about 6 million people in the US and 14 million worldwide.
Participants are later asked a series of questions around brand awareness, purchase intent and message awareness.
In the case of video, Sticky can tell which specific part or parts are seen – for example, whether the consumer focused on the branding element within a video – or whether it’s seen at all. As video is transacted today, when a 30-second ad plays to completion, it's considered a great success and the advertiser pays up, whether or not the consumer in question actually looked at the player while the video was running.
Up until this point, Sticky offered its tech as a managed service. The move into SaaS with Autogazer automates the testing process. Its users will be able to log into the system on their own and download Excel spreadsheets with heat maps, gaze opacity and other data – which Bander hopes will nudge the industry toward greater transparency.
If publishers can cheaply and easily determine exactly which placements are typically seen most and longest, they can charge higher CPMs and give advertisers confidence in their spend.
SEEN metrics could also cut down on what Bander termed the “blame game.” If an ad unit that generally has a high SEEN score comes in with below normal engagement, it’s likely the creative, not the placement, that’s not up to snuff. The converse would also be true: If the same piece of creative scores high with one publisher and low with another, the advertiser can use that info to try and renegotiate with the underperforming publisher.
“Instead of fighting over it, it’ll just be the facts,” Bander said.
Sticky is beta testing the Autogazer with six companies right now, and several others are in the pipeline. One such company is native ad software provider Nativo.
Ultimately, Sticky has its sights set on the stars. It wants nothing less than to become a currency in the industry – the Nielsen of online ad accountability.
“We want to create a Nielsen-like Sticky net rating for ads,” Bander said. “Ideally, companies will be able to create their own norms and then go and use that in the marketplace to set prices.”
But SEEN metrics aren’t the end of the line. There’s more work to be done, Bander said.
“The reality is that when someone sees something, all it means is that they saw it – it doesn’t mean they comprehended what they saw,” Bander said. “You also need good creative, a good product and a good message. But the first step in any communication is getting attention. We take care of that first step.”