After months of debate, the “overwhelming” popularity of the world’s first AI-based media planning tool for attention could signal that the advertising industry is on the verge of a dramatic evolution in media trading.
AttentionTrace, built and launched by Australian media research company Amplified Intelligence Technologies (Amplified), claims to shun “meaningless” and “non-universal” metrics for measurement, such as shares, likes, followers and traditional opportunity-to-see (OTS).
Instead, it provides advertisers and agencies with the means to understand how effectively ad placements across different media engage real active human attention, to drive commercial outcomes and minimise ad spend wastage.
Commenting on the launch, Chrissie Hanson, Global Chief Strategy Officer at OMD, says: “We know attention paid to ads is very different by screen, device, channel and platform, but there is still a lot of confusion and misunderstanding. A standardised attention metric that reduces the incredible complexity for media planning and pricing is long overdue.”
According to Professor Karen Nelson-Field, a high-profile independent media researcher and founder of Amplified, the industry’s current impression-based system has sent the advertising ecosystem into a downward spiral towards poor quality creative, ad placement and unsustainable cost-per-thousands (CPMs).
“The reality is that our current currency is failing us and that not all OTS is created equal,” Nelson-Field told our sister publication Mediatel News recently.
“And there’s not a lot of transparency around this truth. So we live in this market where measures, particularly proxy measures, tell us little of the value of the platform.”
Over the last year however, Nelson-Field says she has seen a shift towards measurement reform. Although Amplified is a media research company by trade, Nelson-Field recognised that its technology and extensive data around human attention spans across different media could play a key part in driving that change.
“So I made a decision almost ten months ago now to be a part of the solution,” she says.
Amplified’s eye tracking technology can tell within 17 millimetres whether a human being is looking directly at an ad (active attention), the screen around the ad (passive attention), or indeed, nowhere near the ad at all.
While passive attention is better than none, active attention provides a significantly stronger sales uplift.
The business gathers this data across TV and online in six different countries, including the UK, Australia and the U.S.
According to Nelson-Field, attentionTrace takes this “complex” data and “normalises” it, allowing planners and buyers to see relative performance across platforms, countries, demographics, day parts and formats.
She likens the system to grocery unit pricing, which was introduced in the UK in the 1970s and allowed supermarket customers to compare the cost of grocery items using a relative unit – such as cost per litre, or cost per 100g.
“It was basically about making it honest and transparent for customers to make decisions. It doesn’t mean that you’re making recommendations for a particular can of drink – it’s just saying, this is what you’re paying,” she says.
Similarly, attentionTrace reveals the CPM being paid for each second of attention, and can therefore reveal relative effectiveness from competitor to competitor.
It does not, however, make recommendations as to how media should be planned. “There are things that social media can do that television cannot do and vice versa.”
Crucially, attentionTrace is not meant to replace any existing measurement metric, but is intended as a supplementary layer. “We’re only one piece of the puzzle,” she says. “We just add one quality layer to the overall mix.”
And although still in its beta phase, Nelson-Field claims that all the major agency holding companies have now signed up for the trial, alongside all media planning agency networks, 15 platforms and publishers, plus global brands, independent agencies, and measurement companies across 14 countries.
“I think I underestimated the desire for quality layers in media planning,” she says. “So for us, that’s pretty exciting.
“This tells me loud and clear that the industry is ready for positive change in a broken ecosystem. So my role now is to support this rather impassioned group with everything I know so that they can be the attention leaders in their organisations.”
The full launch of the tool is currently planned for early 2021.