The startling and fascinating future of advertising metrics in VR

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VR is here. Well, it will be in a matter of days. Oculus Rift and HTC Vive consumer versions will be in the hands of users by the end of April. At first, we’ll see an insurgence of games, experiences, and tools. But then, as the user base swells, we’re going to see new breeds of advertising arriving in this new medium. You didn’t think they would leave us alone did you?

For someone of you this is a horrible thought, for others, their future careers will depend on it. Whether you like it or not, it is happening and how we measure this will be fascinating. Lets take a look at what is going on.

What we are currently doing.

With advertising right now, you have several metrics that you follow. The main ones are obvious things like page impressions and unique visitors. However, there are many more metrics that can come into play when dealing with a sponsor or advertiser directly.

examples of other metrics we track that can be important:

  • page depth : how many pages are people looking at while they are here?
  • bounce rate: did they read the page they came in on?
  • time on site: did they spend an extended amount of time exploring?

These aren’t often given out to ad networks, but rather used in more direct relationships to show that you have an active and engaged community.

What we will be able to do in a few weeks.

As soon as the rift and vive enter the market, we could theoretically be tracking a rough “gaze” metric.

You could return to a potential advertiser and say your advertisement had the following metrics:

  • Attention – did the user look at it? (did the ad enter the area of attention (middle 1/3 of the frame))
  • retention – did the user immediately look away? (or bounce?)
  • inspection – did the user place the ad at center of frame to inspect it?

These metrics would be invaluable to show the effectiveness of an advertisement or product placement. These will be only somewhat more accurate than what we get out of heat maps right now, with the center of your gaze being the rough analogy of a mouse pointer, at least in the context of browsing.

What is next?

The concept of eye tracking within the headset is being toyed with at all of the major companies, even if only as a learning tool in prototyping. FOVE has recently received backing and is seeking to sell their eye tracking tech to the other players.


So far, we typically think of eye tracking in terms of what we can gain by foveated rendering. That is a fantastic use for it, but if it becomes standard It will also be used for data acquisition, i.e. advertising metrics.

If we had eye tracking, we could supply even more detailed metrics to a partner or sponsor. We could, with confidence answer questions we’ve never been able to answer before, like:

  • did the user actually read the ad? well, their eyes followed the words individually.
  • did the graphic you used catch their attention? yes.. they were looking at the sexy elf.
  • where did they lose their attention? after they saw that the ad was for a game that didn’t have sexy elves.

Is this really the future?

Most likely, at least to some degree, though there are some hurdles that would have to be jumped through before this becomes common practice.

  • the user base is too small currently to merit the construction of the technology
  • the amounts of data that would need to be collected to usefully track eye movement en masse is immense.
  • there is not yet an industry standard for head tracking and eye tracking, and that will slow down development of the data acquisition

What is most intriguing about all this, is that these kind of stats have been collected before in fancy sci-fi-esque labs that were doing psychological studies, but now we’re going to be buying devices that measure these things as toys!

Welcome to the future ladies and gentlemen!


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