The growing value of attention as an engagement metric and currency
16 November 2021

During the Future of Media event, the Founder & CEO of Amplified Intelligence, Karen Nelson-Field had a discussion with Chrissie Hanson – Global Chief Strategy Officer, OMD Worldwide – to discuss the advances attention has made over the last few years as a metric of engagement and cross-platform ad currency for advertisers. Nelson-Field revealed that 20% of ad impressions deemed MRC viewable, receive zero active attention from consumers.


Last month, during the Future of Media event in London, one prominent theme was advertisers’ need for better performance metrics and cross-platform measurement for campaigns. In a session titled “The Attention Revolution”, the Founder and CEO of Amplified Intelligence, Karen Nelson-Field, and Chrissie Hanson, Global Chief Strategy Officer at OMD (the media agency network), discussed the growing traction of attention among advertisers, as an effective metric of engagement.

The conversation began by discussing the problem of a lack of a cross-platform currency for media buyers. Nelson-Field noted that advertisers find it difficult to qualitatively compare the values of impressions across different digital platforms – there is little clarity as to the value of ad impressions appearing on Facebook, for example, relative to those appearing on Twitter. Additionally, she was emphatic that metrics such as viewability, which are used gauge the value of different impressions, are simply not up to task: “Viewability tells us little about whether a human has paid attention at all. Not only is the impression failing advertisers, we also know metrics brought in to verify impressions are failing as well.”

Drawing from data collected by Amplified Intelligence – an attention measuring and advertising impact research company – Nelson-Field revealed that approximately 20% of ad impressions paid for by advertisers, that are deemed MRC viewable, receive zero active attention from consumers. She argued that attention succeeds where viewability fails because it is an outward looking metric which “looks at what a human is doing and not what they say they’re doing” and is not device based, and therefore not susceptible to fraudulent tampering of engagement data (by bots, for example). Viewability is also misleading if users hold their fingers on the phone screen while scrolling, while paying no attention to displayed ads.

Nelson-Field and Hanson agreed that, both as a metric of engagement and a more meaningful cross-platform currency, attention presents new opportunities for advertisers, and the “attention revolution” might already be underway. Neslson-Field said: “If you’ve read anything in the trade press in the last months, you’ll see we’re moving past early adopter [stage] and towards critical mass [for use of attention as a metric]”.

She shared several examples of how Amplified Intelligence has provided attention trace data to clients for use in, their media planning. One case was Cars24 – an ecommerce platform for second-hand vehicles – which had sought to optimise the impact of its campaign while expanding its presence to the competitive Australian market. It adjusted its media plan after incorporating attention data provided by Amplified Intelligence, with significant effects on its campaign outcomes. Several weeks ago, Cars24 reported that it had achieved both its best month and best day, in terms of sales results.

Attention tracing performed by Amplified Intelligence has also helped the leading  gaming business in Ireland to increase active attention for its ads by 35% over its original media plan. More significantly, its distinctive brand assets score experienced an uplift of 9% – an achievement which, Nelson-Field emphasised, is made more impressive by the difficulty of pushing up brand metrics for large companies.

While testing the impact of attention on another metric, mental availability (the probability that a consumer will notice, recognise and/or think of a brand in buying situations), Amplified Intelligence found that that brands receiving attention achieve 6% more mental availability than brands that are not.

A major theme of the discussion was the necessity that attention data acquired by brands was both ethical and meaningful. Hanson spoke of the data-driven, empathy planning approach taken by OMD to drive better business and consumer engagement: “We say ‘better’ because it unlocks brand and business growth. It’s also better because we prioritise meaningful attention that is respectful of people’s needs and wants”.

Nelson-Field expressed her concern that the sudden uptick of interest in attention could lead to the proliferation of faux attention data (viewability dressed up as attention) and unethical practices, such as the farming of non-consensual attention data through malware.

She said: “When shifting any metrics, there will be a lot of baggage coming from the 30 years prior. We have a duty of care to both the industry and to clients. At the moment, the attention economy is in hyper-drive and is so hot that it could be a playground for bad metrics and misinformation”. Nelson-Field advised advertisers to make sure that attention data they receive is gathered from real viewing environments and not, for example, from a lab attempting to simulate realistic viewing.

She also emphasised that brands must be careful to ensure all the attention data they receive is as accurate and informative as possible: “We go down to the active attention level. We do that because we know that if someone is actually looking at the ad, it has the greatest effect on outcomes. Demand accuracy in models, demand granularity, demand rigour around the gaze and facial recognition models that vendors are using.”


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