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Google Looks to Get Inside InVideo Viewers' Heads

hypnotic vampire cartoonEvery now and then the latest scheme for improving advertising and getting a better response comes along. There have been focus groups, brand studies, media retention studies, psychological profiling, minute examinations of physical responses like eye movement -- anything you could think of. Now Google has taken up the query, partnering with MediaVest and NeuroFocus to use biometric measurements of viewer responses to InVideo ads. It's interesting in one of those science fiction movie type ways, but this is an old story in technical garb, and while it may sound good, it won't do what marketers really want.

"We were really interested in looking at what we think of as a pretty innovative ad unit," explained Leah Spalding, advertising research manager, Google, who emphasized that since InVideo ads are designed to be non-intrusive, they warrant an evaluation that goes beyond traditional measures like click-through rates. "Standard metrics don't tell the whole story. Google is an innovative company, and we want to embrace innovative technology...these ads require an approach that is more technologically sensitive."
It has the compelling sound of technical research boosted by the Google name. But I think the real reason for this is to create the impression of improved marketing. After all, the economy is tanking and many companies are looking at scaling back expenses, including advertising. Google has a strong reason to keep advertisers thinking of it as a vital part of their marketing mix.

Unfortunately, the best of these systems can only describe how the physiologies of a group of people seem to react when seeing an ad. Who cares? That has the vague cache of magazines and broadcasters and advertising agencies stressing how important "brand" promotion is. Of course, because they know companies have to spend a lot of money for such campaigns and their "success" is notoriously hard to measure. No wonder the industry got concerned with the advent of online marketing, because there was at least some behavior that could easily be tracked. That would be the first step in seeing whether the ads were truly effective, which means following through and observing the ultimate behavior of the audience. Do they buy more dish soap from you than your competitor?

That level of direct causality is very hard to show, but watching click-through rates and online purchases is at least a start. What Google proposes could easily become a piece of misdirection.

But he's quite confident that this study goes far enough to prove the overall efficacy of InVideo ads. "These are high numbers versus other studies," [Yaakov Kimelfeld, Ph.D., senior vp, digital research and analytics director at MediaVest USA] said. "And when users experience overlays versus just non-overlay ads, there is a very clear difference."
That is more the sound of a company trying to prove a point in its economic favor than a company trying to better understand a communications process. Spend too much time watching meters on equipment and a company could get distracted from watching the ultimate business metrics -- whether it is better off today than last year at the same time. If you cannot measure how well an ad ties into actual business, you might be putting money into the wrong technologies. And it also brings up the question again of whether Google is focused first on doing no evil, or if it might need to redefine the word.

Vampire hypnotist cartoon via Flickr user philentropist, CC 2.0.

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