April 15, 2008, 12:00 AM

MediaAnalyzer brings an eye-tracking alternative to the U.S.

Eye-tracking infers how viewers see a web page by recording eye movements. AttentionTracking does the same by capturing how they click with a mouse, the company says.

Media Analyzer, a German advertising metrics vendor whose proprietary testing method yields data on how consumers visually perceive web pages and other media formats, is expanding into the U.S. market with the addition of clients Colgate and Conde Nast, and the opening of a New York office. Its AttentionTracking technology, which tracks an individual’s eye movements when viewing a page or ad, yields results comparable to eye-tracking studies, a method used by retailers to optimize web page design. But it’s a less cumbersome way to gain that information, because AttentionTracking tests are web-based and don’t require test subjects to be at a test facility, the company says.

Though eye-tracking research has been more often used to test advertising, U.S. online retailers including Charlotte Russe and Wal-Mart have used traditional eye-tracking studies to gauge consumer response to web page designs. The theory is that following where on a page a viewer’s eye moves, and in what order, provides information beyond what those users report they see.

Eye tracking captures the movement of tester’s eyes across a web page with a specially-equipped monitor that captures the reflection of light emitted from the monitor off the test subject’s cornea and retina. By contrast, Media Analyzer’s AttentionTracking technology can be delivered to any user’s web browser.

Rather than tracking actual eye movements, AttentionTracking technology first provides a short training procedure online to train testers viewing a web page to use the mouse as a pointing device. It then infers the same information about attention on the page from the clicking of the mouse that traditional eye tracking does from capturing eye movements.

Media Analyzer claims a high degree of correlation between its method and results from traditional eye-tracking studies. In one study it commissioned, for example, when 40 test users were monitored via traditional eye tracking technology and AttentionTracking’s click method simultaneously, results from the two methods had a 95% overlap.

“There is increasing pressure for advertisers to break through the clutter or noise to garner consumers` attention,” says Charles Boyar, vice president of U.S. operations for Media Analyzer. “By expanding to the U.S. market, Media Analyzer is able to service a growing list of U.S. clients seeking better and faster methods to ensure they produce and place the most effective ads.”

The company’s technology has been used to optimize online, direct mail and also point of sale merchandising campaigns in Europe since 2004 for such clients as Unilever and Procter and Gamble.

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