Attention-based metrics are heralded by advocates as a panacea to digital advertising’s transparency issues, promising to remove the guesswork from metrics and prove true effectiveness. What is standing in the way of attention becoming mainstream?
Karen Nelson-Field’s research is built upon the axiom that most people don’t like ads and pay very little attention to them. It’s an adage as old as advertising itself, but its truth has been heightened by social media’s shortening of content and incessant distractions. In this environment, advertisers have three to four seconds to captivate a consumer “if you’re lucky”, Nelson-Field says.
‘Attention will become mainstream in 2022’
“Why would advertisers invest in the attention economy? Because they know it is data that offers some transparency where the metrics they have now don’t,” says Nelson-Field. Fundamental issues within adtech, such as ad fraud, cookie deletion, programmatic leakage, means “no one trusts programmatic buying, clicks, CPM, device metrics, or reach anymore”.
For many marketers, the biggest inhibitor to investing in new processes or technologies is cost. But Nelson-Field, who wants to encourage advertisers to spend more on quality, doesn’t see this as an issue for the attention economy.
“We are not telling advertisers to spend any more money, but readjusting their media mix so they are spending their budget more wisely. Not everyone has more money to spend, so there needs to be a switch out,” she says.
This is how OMD, which Nelson-Field cited as a “leader” in the attention economy, has been exploring attention metrics with its clients.
“When it comes to the question of return on investment, existing media mix, vendor mix strategies and formats can be optimised for clients based on their strategic goals (whatever the proxy is) by looking at attention. For example, we found that some platforms with premium inventory performed a quarter higher than the average of the others tested, or that higher coverage inventory yields higher active attention. In optimising towards these learnings, a greater cost-effectiveness may be achieved,” explains Chris Stephenson, APAC chief strategy officer of Omnicom Media Group.
It appears as though optimising for attention translates to increased spend in premium platforms, and a reduction in user-generated platforms such as TikTok. But Stephenson is quick to add that short-form ads will still play a role in the media/vendor-mix in the future. “These may as well be a benefit in certain strategic circumstances and objectives,” he suggests.
OMD first began testing attention metrics 18 months ago. Like Amplified Intelligence, it uses attention to validate and contextualise figures, by extension providing increased protection from fraud or inefficiency—rather than replace current measurement methods.
“Measuring attention adds to more understanding of how specific channels and placements are consumed, and the impact they have. This is particularly the case for sectors that have been challenged in connecting impressions to sales such as non-direct to consumer CPG where click, sale and attribution metrics were less meaningful. For brands that are more response-based, measuring attention helps define incrementality and optimise attribution,” explains Stephenson.