Advertising Technology

Infolinks’ Dave Zinman Wants Advertisers to Avoid Banner Blindness

Infolinks headshot - hi resDave Zinman is currently the CEO of Infolinks, a company that focuses on studying consumer blindness and improving digital advertising. Infolinks help advertisers better place ads in order to better reach their target. Prior to joining Infolinks, Zinman was the COO of Inadco, as well as the VP and general manager of display advertising at Yahoo! The Makegood recently spoke to Zinman about an eye tracking and banner blindness study conducted by Infolinks.

The Makegood: Infolinks focuses on monetizing websites and smartly utilizing ad space. Could you elaborate on how the company achieves more successful use of online advertisement? 

Infolinks has developed an enormous, global marketplace of publishers for whom we supply monetization services. In fact, our publishers are based in 128 countries. Our platform is very unique in that we do real-time contextual analysis on every page a consumer visits in our publisher marketplace. That real-time analysis extracts relevant keywords, which we utilize in an RTB-style ad auction for our advertisers and agencies. All ads are targeted to the consumer’s real time intent, because they are tied to the content of the pages they are viewing at that moment, not what they looked at yesterday, last week or last month. Our platform then renders ads in non-traditional locations to overcome banner blindness. Overall, we increase display engagement by 30x.

The Makgood: What is eye tracking, and what does it achieve? Has it helped increase consumer views of banner advertisements? 

Eye tracking utilizes webcams to track the exact position of the eyes and where on the page they are focused. This resembles a lab environment more than a broad survey of users. We asked each participant to review several web pages and recorded their eye movements. From this we were able to generate heatmaps showing where the eyes spent the most time, as well as vital metrics for each region of the page that was studied. These metrics included: % seen, time to (how long it took for the participant to see the particular region), and time on (how long the participant’s eyes were focused on a particular region of the page). These insights enable publishers to improve the design of their pages to increase engagement, and enable advertisers to select the best locations for ad placement.

The Makegood: You have discussed banner blindness as a problem for advertisers, since 99.9% of banner ads go unnoticed. Can you explain what this means and do you believe that eye tracking can significantly increase the number of ads seen?

Ad serving technology enabled the explosion in display by making it simple for any publisher to create standard ad slots and get them monetized through ad networks, exchanges and other intermediaries. For a long time, this was a good thing, but as the supply of ad space continued to increase unabated, it eventually created too much tonnage and irrelevant ads. US consumers now see an average of 50 online display ads per day. Consumers learned where ads are typically placed on the page and that those ads are usually not relevant to what they are doing at the moment. This caused banner blindness and the declining engagement rates we see today. Click through rates have declined from 2% in 1996 to less than .1% in 2013. For an industry built around data and targeting, this level of engagement should be unacceptable. Eye tracking can pierce the veil of the consumer’s mind to understand what they see and don’t see. Armed with this level of insight, the industry can reverse the declines in engagement.

The Makegood: In the recent past, brands have had to change the way they advertise  online. Do you believe that they will again need to change the way they advertise online and do you think eye tracking will be useful for future changes in consumer tendencies?

Because of the sheer tonnage of digital advertising that we impose upon consumers (50 ads per day, on average, for each US internet user), advertisers and publishers need to measure and constantly optimize their media efforts to maintain engagement.

The Makegood:  How can more advertisers use eye tracking if the consumers’ permission is required? Do you believe eye tracking can be used more frequently for other media as well?

As mentioned, eye tracking is a valuable tool, but is closer to a lab environment than run time. Publishers should leverage eye tracking technology to optimize engagement with their pages. Advertisers should also utilize it to improve their investments in digital advertising.

The Makegood: Thank you, Dave.