‘Attention’ is so much bigger than measuring media performance

‘Attention’ is so much bigger than measuring media performance


Creating a framework for measuring attention will not only help us get more engaging ads in our media, but should also deliver a more sustainable industry as a result.

Measuring the effectiveness of online advertising has long been an inexact science. For too long, viewability has been seen as the key yardstick by which the quality of impressions is assessed.

The excessive ‘attention’ that has been lavished on viewability has led to all impressions being considered equal – whether or not any notice has actually been paid to an ad. While this has given the industry a way of calculating a minimum benchmark for what brands should be paying for inventory, it has resulted in a race to the bottom, with less scrupulous publishers cramming smaller ads into web pages simply to satisfy viewability metrics.

On top of this, the reality is that some of the drivers of viewability – such as the size of the format or the position on the page – can actually have a negative impact on attention levels.

As a result, for some time, the industry has been searching for a better way to effectively measure how consumers are reacting to content on a page. Thankfully, there is a growing body of evidence that points heavily in favour of a shift to measuring actual Attention. In fact, as 2022 progresses, we’re likely to see many advertisers moving away from using viewability to instead focus on attention as a key metric by which to plan, buy and measure media.

Attention is the new metric

So, why is Attention so important as we look for a way forward with measurement?

Studies undertaken last year by Dentsu international give one of the most comprehensive insights into exactly why the Attention Economy presents such a bright future for digital ad measurement. It clearly demonstrates that attention is three times better at predicting outcomes than viewability – making it a hugely important thing for advertisers to understand and get to grips with as quickly as possible.

The research pinpoints four key areas that affect attention:

  1. Time in view

While this may seem obvious, time is one of the most important drivers of attention – Dentsu’s study demonstrates that both video and display ads benefitted from quality, viewable time. Understanding this allows both publishers and advertisers to drive high user engagement with quality content, which induces a slow scroll speed and a high average time in view (even higher than instream).

  1. User Choice

It’s hardly surprising that ads which are forced on consumers gain more attention compared with ads that are easily ignored. However, when a consumer voluntarily chooses to view an ad, it results in a significant impact on brand lift metrics, whether it’s viewed for 2 seconds or 20 seconds.

  1. Creative

Whilst the importance of creativity on ad effectiveness has been well documented before, within the Attention Economy framework creative came out as by far the biggest driver of how hard attention works. The difference between good creative and poor creative can impact recall by as much as 17%.

  1. Relevance

Finally, the Dentsu study clearly showed that placing ads within relevant context for the reader gives an uplift of ‘attentive seconds per 1,000’ of 13%.

If you were in any doubt that attention represents a more effective way to quantify the value and quality of ad impressions than viewability, then this research should comfortably dispel any of those doubts.

However, there’s also a bigger picture at play here, one that stretches way beyond just being able to measure ad performance.

With the eyes of the industry also now focused on delivering sustainability, spotlighting attention can help advertisers have a positive impact on their carbon footprint.

Making sustainable media a priority

Understanding the emissions from digital advertising is a complex process because there are so many hidden layers to take into account. To get a full picture of their emissions, advertisers need to be able to analyse the entire production and distribution process.

At the production end, this means looking in detail at the requirements needed to produce a piece of creative. Clearly a full TV production ad – with cast, crew, sets, camera, lighting equipment, and support staff – is going to have a greater impact than a simple image that might only require a one-person photoshoot. At the other end, how and where your digital ads are stored and displayed also has a huge impact, but one that can be more difficult to assess and track.

Fortunately, there are two key ways brands can help reduce their emissions at this level:

  • Simplifying your tech stack

Cutting down the layers between creating and delivering an ad means fewer partners and fewer reports to integrate, but also less indirect emissions.

  • Reducing data load

Shorter ads are lighter than longer ads, as are certain ad formats and compressions rates. Optimising asset size is not just good for user experience, but also reduces the emissions involved in serving an ad and conserves the battery power and overall lifespan of a device receiving it.

  • Limiting waste by ensuring ads are relevant to the audience

Targeting the right user in the right context at the right moment will not only increase attention paid to ads and your impact but also limit the waste of impressions and energy!

So not only will creating a framework for measuring attention help advertisers to deliver more engaging ads and get better campaign results, but it will also help them deliver sustainable advertising as a result.

Caroline Hugonenc is global vice-president of research and insights at Teads

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