Making Sense of it All: why Karen Nelson-Field is looking over her shoulder

Making Sense of it All: why Karen Nelson-Field is looking over her shoulder

Today Mediatel News is launching a weekly video interview series – Making Sense of it All – in association with Crater Lake & Co.

Each Tuesday, we’ll publish interviews with the industry’s most thought-provoking marketers, agency executives and research thinkers to find out how people working in media can make sense of this ever more complicated and fragmented ecosystem.

Our first interview is with Professor Karen Nelson-Field, the founder and CEO of Amplified Intelligence. She is a globally acclaimed researcher in media science and recently began writing Attention Revolution, a column for Mediatel News.

Watch the video or read a transcript beneath this article.

In this interview with Brian Jacobs, partner at Crater Lake & Co, Prof Nelson-Field reveals:

  • agencies are using a new prototype dashboard to measure video advertising attention
  • Amplified Intelligence plans to launch audio and cinema ad measurement
  • why the industry will be “flooded” with rival companies offering attention measurement over the next year and are likely to specialise.


BRIAN: Karen, you’ve done masses of work, of course, and many many studies in multiple geographies across thousands of consumers from very many clients and I guess you’re now at the point where you’ve got a great bank of information and knowledge at your disposal and we’re now at that point where you need to put it into some kind of shape or form which will help people genuinely use and take account of attention in how they write their plans. Could you say a little bit about what you’re doing in that area? 

KAREN: So what I love about this is that this couldn’t be more relevant to us so you know we have a relatively complex collection system that’s based on relatively rigorous and complex work, but I recognised that, over about about a year-and-a-half ago, that complexity is not our friend. And so ‘making sense of it all’ could not be more relevant to what we have tried to do in changing our business model from being a research-only kind of agency to building our attention products, using the data we have and that we’ve collected across multiple countries, that could be delivered in a really simple way. Not simplistic, but simple in that people could make sense of it and brands and agencies can use it.

The first product that we have built, which we prototyped and sent out to MVP in January, was a product called Attention Trace which you’ve probably heard about. I know you’ve interviewed me about it before but basically its premise is that it’s a fairly simple but dynamic planning dashboard and API so we’ve now actually got APIs into agency holding cos that deliver quite simply how much attention one platform delivers over another, or one format delivers over another, and what it looks like by demographic, by different categories by time of day.

And, at its core, it’s simply used for media planners to understand how many attention seconds their current media plans deliver and with then an attention adjustment what a media plan could deliver if they they make small small tweaks to their to their buying in essence so that’s our first product.

The second product is in prototype at the moment and it’s called Attention Trade. I can only give you a little bit of a snippet of what that’s about but essentially we’re getting called constantly to extend from planning to buying and it’s a product that will actually model  the last five years of our data into predictive algorithms.

The goal with Attention Trade is to be able to actually buy human attention and, off the back of that, at impression levels. It’s in prototype at the moment but again it’s not super complex – the algorithms are, but the buying output’s not.

We’re quite excited because our MVP sort of already shows that even version one it delivers six times better outcomes from a business outcome perspective than MRC viewability standards so yeah we’re pretty excited for this next step. 

BRIAN: Presumably for this to become genuinely used and extensive input into a variable in planning you’re going to have to look at formats beyond video you’re presumably going to have to look at other media forms you’re going to have to come up with some sort of comparative numbers of some description that explain why video is better or worse than something else. Are you doing work in areas other than video? 

KAREN: We’re quite shocked and excited that the amount of interest we’ve had for data delivered like this. So the excellent question is: will we be moving on from video? And the answer is: yes.

We actually have quite massive ambitions beyond video and certainly beyond mobile and TV so one of the things that we get asked about all the time is audio so we’ve already collected audio data in the US UK and Australia.

But instead of using visual data we collected business outcomes against that so I’ve verified stats and verified discrete choice outcomes and essentially because of how long we’ve been doing it we can now actually model those coefficients back to attention seconds. So that’s the first protocol, we’re close to that.

And if you know me at all you know that I wouldn’t just put it out there if we haven’t collected it in multiple countries to make sure that it’s generalisable. So audio is the first cab off the rank.

We’re also literally building, as we speak, a cinema prototype to be tested here in Australia so we’re super excited about that because obviously cinema is a big part of the media plan. And the third piece is: we have a prototype that can be put onto outdoor infrastructure. So those are our three 

immediate. We actually have people asking us beyond that. But I think that’s probably enough of a stretch for us in the next 12 months; but yeah, absolutely, good question. Our ambition is to move beyond video.

BRIAN: Your company, Amplified Intelligence, you’re not the only guys doing this of course there’s other companies doing similar or work in the same sort of space we should say I suppose. Where do you think this is going to end up? Are we going to have companies that specialize in different aspects of attention in some way or do you think that one company will win and other companies will lose or how do you think it will play out in a few years time?

KAREN: That’s equally a good question and I actually wrote an article in Mediatel News last month that talked about the “attention revolution”. The category is exploding and it makes sense because we’ve talked about the fact that attention is the evolution of impression measurement but we do worry – or I personally worry a bit – because I feel like we have an ethical dilemma. We just want to make sure of that because I think there’ll be a lot more vendors.

There are a couple of vendors in the space now and again we know that attention serves a better outcome than viewability optimised alone but mark my words in the next six to 12 months the industry will be flooded so if you think there’s a couple of us now the next six to 12 months it will be absolutely flooded with attention vendors and I will tell you that some will be good and most won’t be.

So at a bare minimum I’d say that, if a vendor doesn’t actually have access to human gaze data, then beware. This will be an important distinction because a true evolution of a viewability metric [means] we want to make sure that we nurture and [is] not just a poor cousin or a  poor cousin replacement so be mindful that as this this industry floods that people aren’t just using other proxy measures.

For those of us who do collect human attention I think that not one of us will be sort of all-encompassing of the ecosystem. I think that each one of us will specialise. We’ll all  splinter into specialisations as this next year progresses and I think that’s probably a good thing because we don’t all want to be all things to everyone. Someone will specialise in creative; someone specialise in planning; someone will specialise in optimisation, perhaps.

NEXT WEEK: Nick Emery, CEO of You & Mr Jones Media, explains why “something exciting is happening in media” and how the industry needs to reinvent planning as creative and media come together

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