Eyeball tracking on the tube.

Are consumers less susceptible to advertising’s allure than ever before?

I was eye-ball tracking on the tube today. Watching closely as a commuter was reading the Metro. Now I know this cannot be described as scientific research of the most robust nature, but the observation was so clear that it’s worth further investigation.

The commuter had a strong ability to read the editorial and leave out the advertising. As he turned each page he was sub-consciously sorting out his wheat from his chaff.

His eyes skipped nimbly from article to article apparently not even scanning across the ads. His brain seemed to be able to sort with only the slightest of peripheral vision. Was he ruling them out based on shape, I wondered? Or colour? Or position? Or frequency and rhythm?  Whatever his brain’s method it certainly wasn’t something he was thinking about.

Of course this thinking is not new.  But what was new to me was the certainty and clarity and accuracy and finality of his brain’s judgement. No advertisement stood even the slightest chance of been considered.

So, what did this tell me? First that I need to see the hypothesis tested, properly, to see if the hunch is right.

But second, that if the hunch is right and if the skill is common-place, and if it is becoming more used then this would have significant implications for media owners and advertisers. I have long-believed that advertising should be further down the pecking order than it traditionally has been positioned by marketers. Coming in to play when the brand-owners are sure that free-media and word of mouth have been exhausted.

The old adage of 50% of advertising is wasted might be something closer to 100% in some media in front of some eyes.


Bob Bayman