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The Measurement Of Attention

The emerging field of advertising attention measurement is hotting up fast. Advances in the ability to determine who is viewing digital and TV ads and for how long are changing the game. New ways of planning, measuring, optimising and, ultimately, trading media are evolving. Not to be mistaken with viewability (whether an ad was displayed or not), attention uses mobile eye-tracking and big-screen head tracking with large audience panels to give us insight into which ads are seen, and for how long.

This new way of thinking about media has already ruffled some feathers. One of the leading players in the space, Lumen Research, annoyed Facebook by saying that in-feed advertising should be regarded as an outdoor channel, rather than a video channel. The short bursts of attention paid to Facebook, Lumen suggests, indicate that static ads with creative like outdoor 6 sheets are most effective. Instead of inserting video in-feed, they advocate ads with snappy copy that deliver the message at a glance.

As with any new advancement in advertising, it pays to consider the full implications. Multiple studies show that people naturally pay more attention to adverts when they're in market for a product – this means that optimising plans only to attention could risk undercooking the vital role advertising plays when priming audiences with longer-term brand awareness and consideration.

There's also nuances in how to use attention dependent on the nature of your brand and its campaigns. Launches, for example, likely need more attention than a salience-driving campaign from a well-known brand. The former needs to introduce a brand and convey the proposition whereas the latter typically focuses on reinforcing existing memory structures. Naturally the former demands more of the audience and needs their eyes on screen for longer.

Ultimately, an open mind when it comes to the implications of attention is key. Discussions around ‘cost per attention’ measures must consider that reach will always be a big factor in effectiveness too. Instagram Stories are an attention big-hitter, but reach remains low vs Instagram in-feed ads. As always, a balanced, considered approach is needed for media planning.

the7stars has an exciting approach to attention in development that touches planning, measurement, optimisation and trading. Watch this space for news and, firstly, a whitepaper that explains all.

Oh, and the most cost-effective way of capturing attention? Good old-fashioned TV ads top the charts, proving why it’s still the starting point for many brands. But YouTube is running a close second!