Approaching mobile advertising in a new (and scary) way

Despite my mobile marketing background, sometimes I doubt the effectiveness of mobile advertising.

Take mobile video ads, for example. These ads are perfectly catered to our short attention spans since they’re (for the most part) brief, full of stimulating graphics and rewarding, oftentimes promising extra in-app currencies or extra plays upon viewing.

And even though these ads don’t let you skip (unlike YouTube’s video ads), there’s nothing stopping users from putting down their smartphones or tablets for a quick couple of seconds while the ad is playing to look up at their television or computer.

It’s the downside of our second-screen world. Though commercials on television can be a pain sometimes, we have come up with a number of ways to successfully ignore them. With DVRs, people can record shows and blissfully fast forward past all of the commercials. No DVR? No problem. Commercials signal to many a time to get up and grab a snack or take a quick bathroom break.

Not all people try to avoid ads, of course. But what if there was a way to figure out how many people don’t actually watch these video ads, giving advertisers another, more detailed way to measure the effectiveness of ads?

The answer? In-app video recording SDKs.

I know this sounds terrible, but I only say this because I’m pretty sure there are advertising companies out there that are already working on this type of user-tracking, if not perfecting it by now.

Eye-tracking, for example, is nothing new. When companies are optimizing websites or mobile apps for user experience, volunteers in test groups will have their eye movement tracked so that these companies can figure out how users navigate through a website or app.

Samsung’s Galaxy S4 uses eye-tracking to determine when users look away from the phone, as well as when they want to scroll down a webpage or news article.

And perhaps eye movement is one way to measure the effectiveness of ads. If virtual rewards are guaranteed by watching an entire video ad, when a user turns away from an ad that can track eye-movement, the ad can pause until the user returns to the ad.

But what about recording users during video ads?

Everyplay is a mobile gamecasting tool that allows users record videos of their greatest in-game moments and then give them the option of sharing these clips on social media. Rovio’s Bad Piggies uses Everyplay’s SDK so players can record their triumphs (and occasional failures) in building a working cart.

But as of late June, Everyplay has introduced a way for users to record their games as well as their faces during game play, which could mean big things for advertising.

If there was a way to record where a user is watching a video ad in real-time without the user knowing, advertisers can determine (in addition to whether or not a user actually watches the ad): 1) where the user is, 2) what the user might be doing instead of watching the app and 3) the user’s reaction to the ad.

Though this all sounds creepy, it’s not a very likely possibility. Collecting and storing videos of every person watching (or not watching) every video ad being played would result in an incredible amount of data. Let’s not forget to mention the security concerns involved in this type of an SDK. An app would most likely have to ask the user’s permission to be recorded, like push notifications, and chances are, not too many people would agree.

But if technology has advanced enough by then, programs can be created to determine user information based on videos, and the data that is extracted can then be filtered through an analytics service such as Flurry or AdColony.

Right now, to the dismay of marketers, there probably is a ban against this type of super smart but super private tracking (though who knows what the government is up to). It’s a beautiful concept in the advertising world, but also quite invasive.

Do you think advertising will ever reach this point? Where do you think the future of advertising is going next?


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