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AUSTIN, Tex. — A technician in a black lab coat gazed at the short, middle-aged man seated inside the Walt Disney Company’s secretive new research facility here last week, his face shrouded with eye-tracking goggles. Read ESPN.com on that BlackBerry, she told him soothingly, like a nurse about to draw blood. “And have fun,” she added, leaving the room.
At the Disney Media and Advertising Lab in Austin, Tex., computers follow the eye and facial movements of participants, providing data on what kinds of Internet ads attract attention.
In reality, the man’s appetite for sports news was not of interest. (The site was a fake version anyway.) Rather, the technician and her fellow researchers were eager to know how the man responded to ads of varying size. How small could the banners become and still draw his attention?
A squadron of Disney executives scrutinized the data as it flowed in real time onto television monitors in an adjacent room. “He’s not even looking at the banner now,” said Duane Varan, the lab’s executive director. The man clicked to another page. “There we go, that one’s drawing his attention.”