Pay-per-gaze advertising could solve non-appearing ads dilemma

Brands have been demanding promises of ad viewability from publishers after learning that 54 percent of ads do not appear mostly due to technical glitches, according to a recent comScore study. However, publishers have been unable to adequately respond without technology to track viewability. But a recently-granted patent by Google suggests there may soon be an app for that.

by WAN-IFRA Staff | August 22, 2013

Google’s “gaze tracking technique,” officially patented last Tuesday, suggests major implications for advertising. The patent, discovered by Fast Company, speaks of using the technology to implement a “pay-per-gaze” advertising feature.

While the patent does not name-drop Glass, the technology relies on a “head mounted gaze tracking device that communicates with a server.” Basically, when a user looks at something, the scene is communicated to the server with information about gaze direction. Combining the image with this directional data can indicate which part of the scene the user was looking at, and the result would be passed through an image-recognition algorithm. The finding would be stored in a gazing log, the patent says.

The key is the fact that the algorithm would be able to pinpoint advertisements — online ads, print ads, billboards and more. It would then be able to track and bill advertisements, the price of which could even depend on how directly or how long the user was looking at an ad and his or her emotional response to it, the patent says.

Of course, as The New York Times’ Bits blog pointed out, this concept is not a new one. Companies such as UmooveTobii Technology and Cube26 have been tracking head and eye movements as they relate to advertisements. But they are missing the critical component of using the technology for ad-recognition and tracking, a concept which Google now owns.

However, AdExchanger’s Google source said the company isn’t planning on acting on the patent anytime soon. An official statement by Google also stifles hype: “We hold patents on a variety of ideas. Some of those ideas later mature into real products or services, some don’t. Prospective product announcements should not necessarily be inferred from our patents.” Indeed, Google filed for the patent way back in May 2011, as the Bits blog notes, so it’s unlikely to see any concrete action on it any time soon.

But if Glass takes off, ad price structures based on true viewability would be feasible on a wide scale, and publishers would be able to respond to advertiser pressure with concrete numbers, not just untenable promises.

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