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Tracking Mouse Movements Instead of Clicks

  |  June 2, 2011   |  Comments

A start up says it's found a better way to measure interaction with display ads. Here's how it works.

Every digital marketer is familiar with heat maps. Traditionally, publishers and advertisers have used heat-map technology to determine how consumers view a web page: where they look first, where they look most, how their eye (and thereby, attention) travels around the screen. If we can understand which parts of the page attract its users, we can get a better sense of where we should be placing our ads.

Last year, the Online Publishers Association (OPA) used eye tracker heat-map technology in tandem with biometric monitoring to measure engagement and emotional response to a selection of its ad units. The idea of measuring visual fixation on display advertising was an intriguing one. Imagine how intriguing it could be for advertisers to know how consumers viewed all of their banners? And better still, use that knowledge to improve their digital creative?

Earlier this year, a platform designed to provide this kind of information was born. Moat, developed by the digital marketing pioneers behind Right Media, is an analytics company at its core with a self-imposed mandate to standardize display ad measurement. In essence, Moat turns mouse movements into heat maps that can provide brands with a clearer picture of how users interact with their display ads.

"For brands, measuring digital advertising based on impressions and clicks alone is not the right measurement," says Jonah Goodhart, co-CEO and founder of Moat. The way Goodhart sees it, cursor movement (as a metric) is a more reasonable measure of success than clicks. Brands don't always give consumers a good reason to click, but how a user views and interacts with their ads is always relevant. "There's a tremendous amount of information you can get by looking at cursor movements," Goodhart says. Microsoft agrees; this month the company released a study on cursor tracking data as it relates to search, concluding - among other things - that "cursor and gaze position are correlated."

Moat gives advertisers static heat-mapped images and also time-lapsed video of the users' cursor movements on their ads to illustrate attention points even if there are no clicks. This also helps to ensure better creative moving forward. For example, a heat-map video of an expandable ad can reveal exactly where users are moving their cursors in search of interaction points. The next iteration of that ad might feature more interactivity in the hot spots pointed out by consumers. When someone engages with an ad that Moat is tracking, the advertiser also has the option of dropping a cookie on that user in order to retarget a potential customer who has already displayed interest in its ad.


If you're scratching your head at the news of Moat's analytics expertise, it may be because you know it best for its Ad Search capabilities. And that's all part of its analytics offering. Found at Moat.com, the Moat Ad Search engine allows users to search for current and recent display ads by brand.

"Ad Search is the starting point to initiate conversations. You can't improve your ads if you don't know what's running," Goodhart says, noting that companies spend hundreds of millions on ads that are here one day and gone the next. "Google indexes the Web by grabbing the content and skipping the ads. We do the opposite." Though it can be used by consumers, perhaps those in search of good deals, Moat Ad Search was designed to enable industry players like publishers, salespeople, media buyers, and creative agencies to get on the same page about display advertising. They might be looking for an ad example to demonstrate what they have in mind for their own upcoming creative, or seeking inspiration from the competition. An ad search tool saves everyone the trouble of randomly surfing through dozens of sites.

The third piece to the Moat business is the Marketplace, whereupon having researched display advertising and tracked cursor movements on one's ads, brands can take their findings and locate a creative agency that can bring their new vision to fruition.

It seems that not a month goes by without some new analytics tool promising brands the moon and garnering press for it. Few offer a unique approach to display ad measurement, and fewer still provide a three-pronged solution to attaining it. Perhaps all they were lacking was more heat.

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Tessa Wegert

Tessa Wegert is a business reporter and former media strategist specializing in digital. In addition to writing for ClickZ since 2002, she has contributed to such publications as USA Today, Marketing Magazine, Mashable, and The Globe and Mail. Tessa manages marketing and communications for Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy agencies servicing such brands as Bioré, Food Network, illy, and Hunter Douglas. She has been working in online media since 1999.

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