What Do Consumers Really Think? It’s In The Eyes

May 7th, 2018 | ACA Team, Association of Canadian Advertisers

eye close up

Like with so much of the marketing industry, advancements in technology have brought profound changes and improvements to the field of market research in the past few years.

Some of that technology and improvements were the focus of a recent ACA webinar presentation by Aleksandar Simic of EyeSee Research, which specializes in eye-tracking and facial coding — measuring emotions based on spontaneous facial reactions.

One of the long-standing flaws in market research has been the reliance on consumer surveys, said Simic.

“People in surveys are giving their conscious thought,” he said. “But when we track their eye movements and facial expressions, then we get something they are maybe not even aware of.”

The technology provides deeper insight about how people feel about advertising and what purchasing decisions they will make.

While eye-tracking has been in the market researcher’s toolbox for some time, the addition of facial coding and the ability to conduct the research on consumers in front of a webcam at their home computer — as EyeSee can do — have improved both the accuracy and quality of the research while also lowering the cost.

Advertising effectiveness is vitally important when most consumers spend so little time paying attention to ads. The average view time for an ad in a popular magazine is just 1.7 seconds, said Simic. In trade journals, it’s 3.2 seconds; a poster is 1.5 seconds; a mailing gets two seconds; and a banner ad just one second.

“This stresses how important and crucial it is to have good creative teams to create good content, but also to test that content,” Simic said.

Simic used real ads — from a Turkish Airlines campaign starring soccer superstar Lionel Messi and basketball great Kobe Bryant — to illustrate how the EyeSee technology could be used to improve ad effectiveness.



In the “Legends on Board” ad, for example, most viewers only notice the logo a few times. “The logo actually appears 30 times,” he said.

The problem is it is not very visible in many scenes. The eye-tracking proves that and it could be one way for the ad to be changed and improved.

“This is where we can tell our client whether the scenes have value or whether they are effective or not.”

The emotional peaks and valleys can also be tracked and contrasted.

While viewers really liked the scene in “Selfie Shootout” where Bryant gets licked by a lion, many of the middle scenes prompted no strong response.

“So these scenes in the middle, whether they had value or not? In our opinion, not really,” he said.

Simic shared other key insights derived from Eye See research:

  • Social advertising:

    EyeSee looked at the importance of logo placement. A logo in the top-left corner produced the best spontaneous recall at 23% compared to 14% for a logo in the upper right or lower right. And an ad that combines the brand name and the logo has better sales scores.

  • In context:

    Working with Twitter, EyeSee determined that when an ad appears within contextually-relevant content (a shoe ad near sports content rather than, say, political content), the visibility of the ad goes up 7%, time spent on the ad increases 42%, emotional connection is 24% better and the call to action is 26% more effective.

  • Video:

    EyeSee worked with Twitter to study the effectiveness of video ads played on Twitter. “If you are making videos for social, the first three or four seconds is the key,” Simic said. Unaided recall jumps up to 55% in the first four seconds. After that it rises much more slowly to 72% by 15 seconds. But after four seconds, “you lose a lot of people,” he said.

  • Twitter vs. Facebook:

    Asked the differences between social platforms, Simic said ads perform much better on Twitter and it is “investing the most in understanding consumers,” he said. “Our learning is Twitter is a better platform.”