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Most agencies and big marketers still think of digital advertising as a “cheaper” medium that’s best suited for direct-response ads, rather than branding campaigns. For the latter, they still prefer newspapers and TV. The Online Publishers Association, along with the Interactive Advertising Bureau, has been trying to change that perception the last few years by promoting a series of larger ad formats, like page takeovers. While the larger canvas has improved the creative quality of online ads markedly, advertisers say they won’t spend more until they have verifiable proof that the ads are working. The OPA’s answer: check out the latest biometic data.

Essentially, biometrics looks at what’s going on physically with a person, including heart rate, sweat, breathing, and motion, while they’re engaged in whatever action is being studied. The goal, in this case, was to determine whether or not there was a physical reaction from a web-user when seeing an ad across their screen.

About 100 participants were directed to the homepages of three OPA member sites: CNN.com, MSNBC.com and NYTimes.com—and offered stories that appeared to be general, non-breaking news. These homepages and particular article pages were recreated for the purposes of this study so that an OPA Ad Unit could be randomly presented on the targeted article pages. The participants had identified themselves as regular readers of the sites offered. Nine brand advertisers were involved in the study, including Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) Bing, Unilever and Westin Hotels.

After strapping a monitor to the participants chests and using a heat sensor to track their eye movements, here’s what the OPA and Innerscope found:

—67 percent of users revisited OPA’s Ad Units after spending time on a webpage
—96 percent of participants say they pay attention to OPA Ad Units while naturally surfing
—On average it takes 0.6 seconds to fixate (or focus) on an OPA Ad Unit
—90 percent of participants notice OPA Ad Units in the first 10 seconds of being on a webpage
—On average, participants fixate over 15 times on OPA Ad Units
—40 percent of these fixations occur after the first 10 seconds of being on a webpage

So what does all this mean?