Eye-tracking and Youtube: Do Banner Ads Work?

The study “Relationships among Two Visual Attentions and Fixation Duration on an Ad Banner: An Exploration through Eye-Tracking on YouTube” was conducted at Chulalongkorn University in Thailand.  Researchers chose to use subjects that they felt represented a significant portion of YouTube viewers, given that the research was being conducted at a university they simply put out a call for participants. This method of gathering subjects proves effective because it ensures that said subjects are random.

The researchers eventually found 100 participants that were usable for the experiment and had them choose between three distinct clips on Youtube with the only common thread being that all three clips had ad banners. The point of the study was to a) track the correlation between the attention given to the ad banner on the clip vs. the attention to the clip itself and, b) track the amount of time the participants were fixated on the ad banner.  A device called the Miramatrix eye-tracker was used to track the participants eye movement.

*This video is an example of one of the clips that might have been used in the study with an ad banner at the bottom*

In the end the researchers found that generally the attention given to the banner was underwhelming in comparison to the attention given to the clip. This could be due to a number of factors like the content of the clip itself (which, if interesting enough, will deter almost all of the attention from the ad), the placement of the banner, and the fact that the banners are generally smaller and placed on the bottom of the clip where viewers intentionally choose to avoid looking.  The study reported that only 16.777% of all the subjects visual attention was placed on the ad banners while 71.091% was on the clip itself.  Additionally, the average fixation duration of the viewers was 573 milliseconds meaning that, if a participant happened to glance at the ad banner, the average amount of time spent looking at the ad banner was .573 seconds.

One of the major conclusions that the researchers were able to deduce from this study is that there is a positive correlation between the visual attention and the fixation duration of the ad banners.  This means that the more times someone glances at a particular ad banner the longer amount of time that person will spend looking at the advertisement, which is fairly logical.

This study points out how some types of advertising, although placed in a seemingly high-traffic area such as YouTube, may not be as effective or gain as much attention as one would think.  Additionally it reveals the paradoxical nature of this ad banner type of advertising on Web videos in general.  This issue is highlighted through the finding that the ad banners on YouTube clips and the clips themselves compete for viewers attentions, as well as the correlation between fixation duration and visual attention of the ads.  It is questionable whether or not the owner of a particular clip would warrant this kind of competition on their YouTube video because of the potential inattention that it could mean for his or her own content.  Likewise, an advertiser looking to gain a significant amount of attention to an ad banner would be cautious in placing their advertisements on more popular and potentially more “interesting” or attention grabbing videos because of the inattention that the ads might get.

One issue that this study does not address is that not all YouTube videos contain these banner ads and, from our own personal research, often times these banner ads can be hard to find on YouTube today.  One of the possible reasons for this is because different Internet browsers afford different types of ad blocking capabilities such as Google Chrome’s “AdBlock”, which is an add-on to Chrome that completely eliminates these banner ads (and other types of ads) from appearing on one’s screen.  Another reason for this is that YouTube videos have varying types of advertisements placed on their clips, which seems to make the appearance of these banner ads (as well as other types of ads) occur in a very unpredictable manner.

*In case the video shown above did not have the banner ad as discussed these two images are screenshots of a clip with the ad banner shown at the bottom*

The implications of a study such as this are numerous.  One possible implication is that, if more studies like this are done on different types of advertising, especially online advertising, and reveal that specific advertising techniques are actually less effective than they were thought to be, the advertising industry could see major changes take effect in the coming years.  This potential shift could be likened  to the creative revolution in advertising because, if this type of change were to occur, advertisers would be forced to take their advertising efforts to a new level of creativity and thinking.  Consumers could, and most likely will, continue to see advertisements popping up in new places and in all different forms of media.  This implication is further perpetuated by the potentially unlimited amount of areas that the Internet affords advertisers to place their ads.  Especially with the advents in mobile computing technology and social media advertising, the areas that advertising could appear really are endless.

The findings of this study offer insight to the use of eye tracking devices as a method to better understand consumers. This method is not only used to measure eye movement on video, it can be used for all media and this study has succeeded in displaying a clear example of how companies today can benefit from the data collected by it. When brands and companies know what their target market is looking for they gain the ability to garner large amounts of profit which makes experiments like this one integral to the way companies interact and interpellate consumers.  Although this study finds that the ad banners used on YouTube videos may not be a very effective type of advertising, it establishes a precedent for other such studies to be conducted regarding other types of advertising.

Works Cited

Screenshots taken by author at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fMnq9HTYynM

Tangmanee, Chatpong. “RelationshipsAmongTwo Visual Attentions And Fixation Duration On An Ad Banner: An Exploration Through Eye-Tracking On Youtube.” Journal Of Global Business Issues 7.1 (2013): 1-6. Business Source Complete. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.



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