Originally published in Adweek.
This article was written by Chrissie Hanson, Chief Strategy Officer at OMD Worldwide.
Every few years the winds of change blowhard. They kick up the dust and shake up legacy practices, and when we understand how to read those emerging patterns, we’re able to turn challenges into opportunities that take us to a better place—a place where we’re advancing on behalf of our clients, rather than being on the defensive, battening down the hatches, hanging on, but ultimately, falling behind.
Third-party cookie deprecation and the clamoring for greater consumer privacy, twinned with the demands for digital transformation in a not-yet-post-Covid world, have together brought us to an inflection point, one that will make 2022 the year that every brand, every media network, platform and publisher must at long last answer our industry’s version of an existential question: are you ready to get serious about attention?
If, like many businesses, you’re seeking to do more with less, to sustain the brand and business growth by making better decisions, faster regarding the ways your media and creative dollars should be spent, then the only answer is yes. But before you say yes, you need to understand what “getting serious about attention” means at the brand level.
Time to bring a new KPI onto the dashboard
While the past year has seen more discussion around the need for an attention-based measurement standard, as we head into 2022 attention still falls closer to laudable concept than leverageable KPI. Quite simply, we need more publishers, platforms and networks to trade on attention in order that it becomes a widely-tradeable currency.
But brands don’t have to—and shouldn’t—wait for the sell-side to come up with a new standard. For those who are willing to make the commitment of time and resources, you can establish brand-specific attention scores and baselines that will allow you to incorporate an attention-based, brand-specific KPI into your media planning, buying and investment.
How to start paying attention to attention:
Getting serious about the business of applying attention to media planning and buying and investment begins with the following critical steps:
Find a partner for the journey.
Find a research partner that has the cutting-edge technology required to reveal what attention looks like at the brand level, in real-world viewing situations, across multiple platforms, formats, and creative executions.
After decades of settling for proxy standards—first with Nielsen in the linear world, and then with viewability and time spent in digital environments—marketers can finally demand and get something better than a best guess about who’s watching a commercial; or knowing that a consumer “had an opportunity to view” their content. For example, when OMD began its attention journey, we partnered with Amplified Intelligence, whose attention Trace technology allowed us to determine the limits of active attention (3.5 seconds), as well as which platforms and content earned this level of attention that drives both short-term brand choice and long-term brand preference.
Do not get distracted by searching for a silver bullet.
This isn’t about discovering a new composite CPM rooted in attention, as one holding company recently claimed. The goal is to discover what attention looks like for your brand—and that means getting granular, discovering the attention ceilings of different platforms, and how creative executions can affect attention. Looking at attention at the micro-level is fundamental to developing brand-specific attention baselines that will ultimately inform more effective and efficient media planning guidelines.
Commit to the long game.
There is a treasure trove of highly-granular real human attention data that can be revealed and optimized on your attention journey—but it requires hypothesizing, testing, comparing, and contrasting; scaling that effort across a brand’s market imprint; and then applying those learnings to drive better outcomes. And it’s not a one-time proposition.
Individual human behavior is largely driven by the factors of distraction on a platform, meaning that attention measurement needs to be updated when there are changes to a platform functionality—minimally, you’re looking an annual evaluation. But the end result will be a metric that when applied thoughtfully, can inform the development of brand experiences that genuinely understand and respect the audiences with whom we seek to connect, in the most credible, authentic, and responsible way.
So, back to the original question; are you ready to get serious about attention? You better be—because the countdown to the age of attention has already started.