Yahoo! Tracks Internet Ads Using Biometrics

Where we go informs where we go!

"The Eyes Have It" when it comes to garnering insights about Internet content and advertising interplay.

Or, maybe better: "It's all in their eyes." Pupil dilation and eye tracking are supposed to tell consumer packaged goods companies and other larger advertisement spending entities (Vonage, AT&T and Verizon are the largest online advertisers) where the buyer is going.

And so the advertiser may now glean information or portray brands from contextual ad insertions, branded entertainment with embedded messaging, or "priming" a consumer by leading one's thinking toward a pre-disposition for a product or service.

Yahoo! recently commissioned a research campaign with its research partner Innerscope on the "personal" and "contextual" formulas so the reader notices the ad more quickly and takes it to heart -- or brain. "The Power of Relevancy: The Biometric Impact of Online Advertising" full study was released at the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF ) in New York this spring.

"In your ad campaign, contextual placement helps the browser gain a long-term memory response," said Lauren Weinberg. "What we found is that the combination of the two (personally relevant and contextually compelling) is the most impactful. The numbers were very high."

Weinberg emerged from Viacom and the entertainment digital research business before coming to Yahoo! She talked about branding cues, becoming platform agnostic as advertising turns to mobile platforms and a new "canvas" for search companies like Yahoo! to offer its customers.

"We did teenage boys at Viacom and they would not tell you anything," she said of sullen teens. She also worked at MTV, which has evolved its content offering. "So I am a big fan of biometrics."

Biometrics and neuromarketing firms learned long ago that well-intentioned consumers often tell the caller/interviewer what they believe one wants to hear. But the body and brain don't lie. Perhaps it is time for media companies and for political pollsters or Washington public affairs firms to use biometrics and neuroscience?

In Sunday's Washington Post, columnist Steve Pearlstein wrote about Yahoo! and the governmental pressures brought by FTC rulings on Google's alleged monopoly (Google's buy-out attempt of Yahoo! was rejected) and earlier Justice Department antitrust inquiries vis-à-vis Microsoft.

I generally write about the intersection of politics and media. With that, it's my impression that Yahoo! continues to innovate and its recent Power of Relevancy work is another example.

But not so fast, say others exploring emotional responses in this field.

Dr. AK Pradeep, a true pioneer in neuromarketing who runs a global neuroscience lab, and who has won the ARF's highest Ogilvy Award, told me recently:

"The life of commerce is to be found in the measurement of emotion which we do at NeuroFocus at the mind-level which then trickles down to the eyes (as Yahoo! had done with Innerscope), and then to the hand for behavioral measurements like a purchase choice. We are way up in the hierarchy. The trickling down from mind to eyes through eye tracking means we never know whether the gaze was due to interest or confusion. Through Neuroscience, combined with eye tracking, we know both the 'why' and 'how'."