In many ways, the Internet already supplies fabulous tools for marketing. For example, you know which online ads are working because you can count the number of clicks. By contrast, you really can not determine what brings a customer into a bricks and mortar store unless you stop and ask each one.
You can also determine which online ads lead to conversion by tracking clicks to sales. You can track how visitors came to your site by tracking source. You would have to ask each bricks and mortar customer detailed questions to obtain the same information.
Even though the Internet has some big advantages in terms of monitoring and analyzing data, the science of marketing has also advanced dramatically in more traditional channels because marketing researchers have had more opportunity to study customers in a face-to-face way.
Now that Internet advertising has become a seriously large business, $25 billion spent in 2009 and an expected $37 billion expected to be spent by 2013, market research scientists are beginning to bring together the research models from both environments to learn more about the Internet consumer.
Disney Media Works is one of those companies that has jumped into Internet marketing research with both feet. Their approach is to look beyond the data generated by users who actually click on ads and visit sites and study the users who do not click on ads in order to find out what they are doing and what might attract their attention.
In the Disney Labs, experimental subjects wear eye movement tracking goggles and sit in booths that are designed to monitor facial movements, heart rate and skin temperature as well. They are provided web content to read with the general instruction to enjoy content that would be interesting to them in any case.
However, the researchers are not actually interested in the subjects reaction to the reading content; they are watching the readers unconscious reaction to advertisements that are presented along with the content they are viewing. The tracking equipment can determine if the subjects eye has been caught by an ad type, whether or not the user visually lingers on the ad, which ads attract more attention and so on.
The Disney researchers are evaluating question such as whether live footage or animations are more captivating on mobile devices, if banner ads work better when paired with pre-roll (eg video clips) and whether watermarks are an effective advertising strategy.
The ultimate goal is to have rules to apply to Internet marketing, rules that have been quantitatively developed, such as ‘bottom screen news tickers do not detract from advertising and maintains viewer attention.’
Disney researchers also believe that negative rules are extremely useful, noting that it is helpful to have the data to demonstrate that a particular strategy is just not worth pursuing, something that they are beginning to believe about watermark advertising, an etched glass effect behind other website content.