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Seeing Through Consumers’ Eyes: Online Advertising and Eye Tracking

In today’s marketing landscape, the window of opportunity for an advertisement is extremely brief. Many consumers actively tune out ads as soon as they recognize them. This holds true for television, print, and the Internet. According to several studies, the average consumer is inundated with up to 5,000 advertisements per day. It is unmanageable for any person to give their full attention to all these ads. Therefore, the eye of the consumer holds a wealth of valuable information.


In the past decade, the Internet has overtaken traditional media and has become an unavoidable outlet for advertisers. It is crucial to understand how and when consumers will devote their attention to online commercial stimuli and what underlies their attention strategies. Measuring visual attention in regards to online advertising has been explored with eye tracking technology.


Eye trackers use a small camera that bounces infrared light off a user’s eyes and follows the reflections in order to pinpoint where their eyes are looking. Eye trackers make it simple to collect specific visual data on user behavior. They also can tell whether users are reading or scanning, learn the relative intensity of a user’s attention to various parts of a web page, and are able to determine whether a user is searching for a specific item.


 Eye tracking heat map, image source


In addition, eye trackers can compare user scan patterns, allowing for a more complete analysis. Eye tracking devices create “heat maps” that show how much users looked at different parts of the web page. Areas wher users looked most often are colored red, yellow areas indicate minor fixations, and blue areas are the least-viewed. Gray areas did not attract any attention.


For the online marketer, using eye tracking to analyze a campaign has countless benefits. Eye tracking can be used to measure the effectiveness of banner advertising, email campaigns, electronic newsletters, and even in-game advertising. By showing whether an ad is seen or not, it provides a completely new measurement of online branding.


 Left: gaze plot, right: heat map, image source


The gaze plot and heat map visualizations above reveal that website visitors avoid looking at special offers that appear in a banner-like format. This phenomenon is known as “banner blindness.” Results from eye tracking show that optimizing the format, layout, and placement of online messages can greatly increase brand impact.


Mobile phones and other mobile devices are increasingly being used for web surfing and online shopping. As a result, mobile advertising is growing rapidly and is considered to have an edge over other forms of traditional marketing because the mobile phone is a targeted, individual device.


Heat map on mobile phone, image source


Eye tracking can also reveal the effectiveness of email campaigns, ad banners, landing pages, and game advertising on mobile devices. Moreover, it can help companies to optimize mobile advertising to limited screen sizes, touch screens, and users’ general behavior.


Efficient and accurate eye tracking solutions that allow for natural interaction with mobile devices are made possible by using standalone eye trackers. Users can hold the device, rotate it between landscape and portrait modes, and interact with it comfortably. This type of fixed setup is ideal for quantitative studies.


For larger devices (such as tablets) and qualitative studies, mobile eye trackers can be used that allow for completely free eye movement. Mobile interfaces can be projected onscreen using an emulator. This works by navigating a virtual mobile phone on a computer screen.


Knowing what consumers focus on is a vital first step to ensuring marketing effectiveness. Eye tracking offers a unique method to objectively measure consumers’ attention and spontaneous responses to online advertising. Instead of asking people to describe their engagement or recall their reactions, eye tracking lets you see it in real time. It minimizes recall errors and reveals information that conventional research methods normally miss. Every online marketer should consider utilizing this groundbreaking technology.


Here are some companies that offer eye tracking systems and services: Tobii, EyeTracking, Inc., and SensoMotoric Instruments.


12 Email Mistakes Every Nightlife Marketer is Guilty Of


Back in October of 2011 I wrote 4 Mistakes in Nightlife Email Marketing.  Now I feel compelled to expand on that.

Am I sure EVERY nightlife marketer makes these email marketing mistakes?  Yes, I’m positive.  In fact, all small business owners are guilty of using email marketing improperly in some way or another.

I sign up to everyone’s nightclub email list.  I have a special email address i’ve set up only for subscribing myself to these lists so that I can see who is doing things right, and what some clubs are doing wrong.  (In the future I’ll write a blog showing you the best and the worst.  That’s going to be fun!)

Email marketing is one component of a mix of marketing strategies you should be using.  Is it the most important?  Some treat it as such because they don’t have the budgets to do other forms of advertising.

The more important email marketing is for your venue, the more closely you need to look at the list below and analyze to see if what you’re doing can be done better.

Here are 12 email marketing mistakes that nightclubs, bars, lounges and promoters are guilty of.

Sending One Big Flyer

Do you realize that if the person has images turned off, they see a BIG RED “X”?  I guarantee you nobody is turning their images on to see the flyer.  They read your subject line and they assume they’ve see enough.

Furthermore, having an image and no text can get you spammed right away.

Quit being lazy and write something about your event.

Stolen Lists

Did some promoter give you a list of 10,000 emails he’s been collecting over the years?  Did a marketing director bring a list from a previous nightclub into your database?  Are you using a list from a failed venture before this new one?  You’re searching for a quick way to get your word out and it’s a big mistake to just dump people into your list without permission.  Contrary to your marketing instinct, it hurts you more than it helps.  Avoid poisoning your marketing channel.

Read 4 Tricks for Building Your Nightlife Email List to get some ideas on how to build your list in a good way.

No Segmentation

Take my blog, Nightlife Marketing Resource, for example.  If I grabbed all of my emails from when I was a nightlclub promoter and threw them on my NMR email list, I would be sending emails to a bunch of people who could care less, unsubscribe, or worst, report me as a spammer.

The same is true when a nightclub fails to segment their lists into male vs female, electronic vs hip hop, high spenders vs low spenders, etc. Without segmentation, you have no real relevancy.  Your emails need to speak to that person as much as possible.  Yes, it might mean that you need to send the same email promotion in different ways.

For more information on this, read Segmentation: Even you can do it!

Lame ‘Thanks for Subscribing’ Message

Like I told you earlier, I have a special email where I subscribe to nightclub lists.  Not one of them had a cool “welcome” email that engaged me while thanking me for subscribing.

People, it’s not rocket science.  In addition to thanking me for joining, why aren’t you making me an offer I can’t refuse?  Why not start marketing to me right away?  I just signed up, so clearly I’m ripe for the picking.  Include a “free drink” or “cut the line” offer if I fill out a survey about your venue.  Or maybe you have a big memorial weekend celebration so for that month you change your auto-generated thank you to include the promotion.

Too Many Emails (or not enough)

Not all venues are guilty of this, some have a perfect frequency.  But I’m looking at the email lists I subscribe to for various nightclubs around the world and I notice a couple of things.  First, some don’t even email me at all.  I signed up and haven’t heard from them since.  Second, some of them send me an email every 2 or three weeks.  Finally, a few send me 3 or more.  That’s too much.

What’s the magic formula?  The answer to frequency is always:  as often as you have something interesting to say to an audience who cares.  Read my article How Frequently Should I Send Emails to My List?

No Personalization

How can venues personalize emails? It’s all about testing.  One thing is true:  it’s hard to personalize if you don’t know their first name.

There are two ways to personalize a nightclub email:

  1. Insert their first name, last name, or content relevant to their list segment.  For example, if you know that I love house music, then say “Alex, we know you love house music so here is our lineup…..”
  2. Write to the person from someone specifically in your club rather than from the club itself.  For example, emails to VIPs should be coming directly from the director of VIP sales.  His/her signature should be at the bottom.

No Interactivity

Email can be interactive if you ask for the interaction.  At the most basic level, if someone hits reply it should go to an actual person, not info@yourclub.com.  Taking it a step further, you can include social media buttons inside of your email so people can share the actual email being sent.  Finally, include “call-t0-action” statements that make people want to click and do something more.

Return to Sender

Isn’t it annoying when you send out snail mail and you get it back and the post office has destroyed your piece with “RETURN TO SENDER” stamped on it?

You should feel the same way about un-deliverable emails.  When you look at your last email campaign and you see that of the 1000 emails you sent, only 200 were opened, you can safely say that 80% were undeliverable (that’s not totally true, but that’s the mentality you need to have).  What’s the point of sending emails if they aren’t getting to the email inbox?

The issues could be in a poor subject line, HTML formatting of the email, being blocked by ISPs, or their filters didn’t like something you said in the message.

Not Mobile Friendly

Before your campaign goes out, send a test and read it from an iphone, blackberry and android.  Be honest with yourself and say “would I read this?”  If the formatting makes someone have to scroll left and right, then some adjustments need to be made.

Same Template Over and Over

Have you been sending emails using the same template for a while now?  Studies show that people become blind to certain things after they’ve gotten used to them.  For example, if you always place a banner promoting a special event on the right side, people will become blind to that over time.

Keep making changes to your template over time and don’t let people get used to banners being in certain spots always.

No Email Analyzing

It’s all about click-throughs, conversions and open rates.  What?  Huh?  If you’re not analyzing your data after sending it, then how can you improve on it?  The more important email is to your marketing, the more you need to be paying attention to the email metrics.

One-Trick Pony (Relying on Email Only)

I know you probably have a twitter and facebook page, and that you’re probably doing some street promos as well.  But there are some clubs out there relying only on email marketing still.  It’s worth saying at the end because I just want to repeat that email marketing should not be your only form of marketing.  I know it’s cheap and time saving, but it’s not effective when used alone.


-This is a guest post written by Alex Miranda for Nightlife Marketing Resource. Alex is the co-founder and CEO of Creative Complex.


How Social Media Enhanced the Academy Awards

The 84th annual Academy Awards was a chaotic event to say the least. Between Sacha Baron Cohen dumping “Kim Jong Il’s ashes” on Ryan Seacrest’s designer suit, the cast of “Bridesmaids” presenting their Martin Scorsese drinking game, and J.Lo’s debatable wardrobe malfunction, viewers gave up their regularly scheduled Sunday night programs to see what other vagaries might ensue. While I’d like to congratulate everyone who walked away with an Oscar on Sunday evening (congrats Meryl Streep!), we should also acknowledge one noteworthy contributor to the show’s success that made their “speech” through a different channel…social media!

According to Bluefin Labs, the Hollywood, CA event generated some 3.8 million comments on Twitter, Facebook and other social media websites during its ABC broadcast (compared to last year’s 1 million). This statistic places the Academy Awards just above last year’s MTV Video Music Awards, which produced 3.1 million social media comments. The only award show having received more commentary through social media was this year’s telecast of the Grammy Awards, which had an astounding 13 million comments!

An estimated 57% of the Oscars’ comments were made by women, with the remaining 43% coming from men. Bluefin Labs further analyzed the results to determine that 22% were positive, 16% were negative, and 62% remained neutral.


High-traffic moments occurred somewhat predictably throughout the evening:


1. The most-talked about moment was the Best Picture announcement for the nearly silent film, “The Artist.”

Last year’s Best Picture: An English dude who couldn’t speak. This year’s: A French dude no one could hear.” – Andy Borowitz author/comedian

I am officially announcing that I am re-making THE ARTIST with sound.” – Alec Baldwin actor


2. The second peak of social media commentary took place when crowd-pleasing comedians, Tina Fey and Bradley Cooper presented three awards. Cooper’s mustache created a lot of buzz while fans encouraged The Academy to consider Fey as next year’s host.

Tina Fey should host next year.” – Kelly Oxford writer/famed tweeter

Bradley Cooper is just in from robbing a train. #Oscars” – Hulu online service for ad-sponsored video streaming

3.  Octavia Spencer’s emotional acceptance speech claimed the third most popular spot for social media discussion. Spencer’s comments additionally ranked highest in positivity ratings.

Congratulations to @OctaviaSpencer for her Oscar win! You truly deserve it! God bless!” – Kelly Rowland singer

Yes!!!! Welcome to the family Octavia !! Congrats!!! Amazing!!” – Jennifer Hudson singer/actress

Other unique moments during this year’s Oscars generated additional online discussions, and continues to prove how real-time social media platforms are changing the face of awards show commentary, as well as television watching in general. One such example was the somewhat controversial exposure of Angelina Jolie’s right leg. Viewers immediately shared opinions of Jolie’s wardrobe choice and, almost instantaneously, a Twitter account was created for “AngiesRightLeg.”  The Twitter account currently has close to 35,000 followers and about 30 tweets.

The above statistics and results only reinforce existing research in support of the effectiveness of social media. Clearly, with active individuals across such a broad spectrum, sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc. can all assist in amplifying anything – whether that’s celebrity limbs or your brand. Celebrities who utilize social media for public relations’ benefits also have the opportunity to translate the increased popularity of their profiles and pages into potential business success. Advertisements cost $1.7 million per 30-second commercial, but given the popularity of the 2012 award show, it’s likely that this was money well spent.

Were you commenting on the Academy Awards via social media last Sunday?  What was your favorite part of the show?  Do you think social media is changing the face of television commentary? Tweet us @451Heat or share your comments below!

-Katie O’Brien, 451 Marketing Marketing Intern


Katie is a senior at Boston College majoring in Communication.

Thanks for the images:

1. www.gradley.net

2. www.laist.com

3. www.hollywoodreporter.com

4. www.blogcdn.com

5. www.cbswbbav.files.wordpress.com/

6. www.laist.com


The 411 on the New Facebook Timeline

A few weeks ago I began to notice some of my Facebook friend’s profiles were different. Immediately I began to worry because like most people I don’t like change, especially on Facebook!

Come to find out, this profile “upgrade” is the new Facebook Timeline. After doing some research, I discovered that on January 24, 2012 Facebook announced in their blog, that over the next few weeks everyone will be getting the new “Timeline”. Until recently, users were able to opt-in to Timeline which was originally announced in September 2010, however within a few weeks everyone will be switched over.

According to the social media giant, Timeline gives you the ability to browse through your entire Facebook, from your first friend to your most recent post. When I first saw it, it reminded me of an online scrapbook of your life because it shows all of your status updates, photos, friendships made, job history, marital status changes, and other information that you’ve recorded on your page since it launched.

As Paul McDonald, an engineering manager on Facebook’s Timeline said, “Timeline gives you an easy way to rediscover the things you shared, and collect your most important moments. It also lets you share new experiences, like the music you listen to or the miles you run.”

Facebook hasn’t specified how long the change-over will take, but as you prepare to be switched to the new Timeline design here are some helpful tips you should know:

  • There is a 7 day preview period during which you can review everything that will appear on your Timeline. Take this time to delete anything that you don’t want on your timeline, such as silly pictures or posts from high school when you first had your Facebook, because after the 7 days you won’t be able to delete them!


  • In addition to a profile picture, you now have a “Cover Image”, which is a large splash photo that you can change at any time. You can pick any photo to represent you or your life without it being the picture people see of you. Keep in mind that it is a very large space to fill so higher-resolution pictures look best! 

  • A new tool being introduced with Timeline is the Activity Log where you can see all of your posts from today all the way back to where you activated your account. You are the only one that can see your activity log, and you have the option to hide the posts you’d rather not share for privacy. 

  • You can edit individual posts so only certain people can see them and also separate your Facebook friends into groups and showcase only certain items to those groups. Surprisingly this a good privacy feature of the Timeline!


My hope is that after reading this you feel a bit more relaxed about the new Facebook Timeline and now have some helpful hints when it becomes your time to “switch over”! Because according to Facebook, whether we are ready for the change or not – it’s coming! Tweet us @451Heat to share your thoughts!


-Melissa Garabedian, 451 Marketing PR Intern


Melissa is a senior at Merrimack College majoring in Business Marketing


Is the Early Release of Super Bowl Commercials Beneficial?

With the big game on Sunday, it’s almost impossible to go online without seeing something pertaining to the Super Bowl. While I enjoy hearing about the Patriots, one thing that really caught my attention has been all the talk regarding the widely anticipated Super Bowl commercials. I like Super Bowl commercials just as much as the next person, but I was surprised that I am already seeing the full commercials before the game has even happened. Did I miss something? Isn’t the point of paying 3 million dollars so the commercial will have its big debut during the Super Bowl, not weeks before on the internet? Well I really thought about this and tried to figure out the reasoning behind this new marketing strategy. While at first I was rather confused by this approach I do think it can have a positive impact for some companies, but definitely not all.

I just recently saw Chevy’s 2012 Super Bowl ad “Happy Grad,” a simple yet memorable commercial. Although it was posted early on the internet, it is greatly entertaining, which puts Chevy in a good position for when it does air. People are already talking about the commercial, which adds to the anticipation of other viewers. Instead of just being viewed during and after the Super Bowl, Chevy’s ad is being seen before the game has even started. The “Happy Grad” ad has already had 905,921 views on the popular site YouTube. The commercial will have a much longer lifespan than ads that are waiting to air on Super Bowl Sunday. This strategy has also given Chevy the advantage of having a larger return on investment by allowing their commercial to circulate for a longer amount of time on the internet and television. People will constantly be seeing the Chevy brand, giving them more incentive to buy from them. While this is a risky strategy, it works for Chevy because they have a good commercial that viewers find desirable.

While Chevy will most likely see a positive impact from releasing their commercial early, not all companies will get the same outcome. Another 2012 Super Bowl ad done by Lexus is called “The Beast.” Sounds pretty cool, huh? Well don’t let the name fool you because this commercial isn’t that special. When I began watching it, I was pretty interested, but then it became rather predictable and unexciting. I really didn’t find it entertaining and wouldn’t be too excited to see it again during the Super Bowl. While this may be my personal opinion on the ad, I think many people would feel the same way about seeing a commercial in the future that they didn’t even enjoy the first time. For me, now that I have already seen this commercial, I really don’t feel a need to pay attention to it again during the Super Bowl. I think this is a great downside to companies posting commercials that aren’t very entertaining and enjoyable before they are supposed to air. People already know what the ads are like and may not have an interest in them the second time around. Now that this Lexus ad has been around for over a week, people might even be sick of it by the time it actually airs.

YouTube Preview Image

Overall I think it’s a pretty risky strategy to post your Super Bowl commercial before the actual game. You really have no idea how people will react to your ad and once it’s out, it’s out.  Viewers like the element of surprise and seeing Super Bowls ads before the game just doesn’t have that same effect. While some companies like Chevy may see a positive outcome from posting their ad, not all will get the same response. I was really surprised to see this happen this year and while I may understand the reasoning a little better, nothing beats seeing new commercials on Super Bowl Sunday.

Do you think releasing Super Bowl ads early is a good strategy? Will it detract from watching on game day? Tweet us @451Heat to share your thoughts!

Thanks to @bonnielester530 for this week’s post!

Bonnie is a 451 Marketing Marketing Intern. She is a senior at Worcester State University majoring in Business Administration.