Attention Metrics

In this special episode of The Digital Distillery Podcast, we discuss the sudden uptick in the use of 'attention metrics' which are quickly superseding viewability.
But what exactly are Attention Metrics, why are they so much more effective than the old model, and what are some of the different approaches that organizations are taking in order to measure this previously unattainable metric?
Listen to find out as we dig the beginnings of what is surely soon to be a much larger conversation.

Sources and further reading:
Advertisers leading carbon reduction

Pro's & Cons of Attention Metrics
Fifty-five Carbon Footprint Study

Mentioned Attention Metrics providers:

Written, Produced & Engineered by Phil McDowell
Executive Producer: Nadia Koski
Project Leads: Dennis Kirschner & Stefanie Leonardi


Phil mcdowell

Hello and welcome back to another surprise episode of the Digital Distillery podcast. The show where we take you on a tour of places, the people, and of course the topics covered at our global digital media events.

I know I know, I said I wouldn’t be back until we were on the ground at an event somewhere in Europe, spooning parfaits in Paris, sipping a weizen in Vienna or any number of other badly illerterated puns.

And while we are mere moments away from announcing the dates of our first events of the year, I can’t tell you any more just yet. Only that literal metaphorical mountains of preparations have been going on behind the scenes to get organise this monster of an event series and make sure we have the coolest people and places on board. In the meantime however, I wanted to bring you a topic that has been causing a lot of buzz and general excitement in the ever shifting industry that we find ourselves in. One that is deftly shouldering its way to the front of the pack as it were. And that is, as the more astute listeners will have noticed from the title of todays episode….. Attention metrics.


Phil mcdowell

So let’s jump in and talk a bit about what the term attention metrics actually means.

The principle is simple. Attention metrics is essentially the measurement of people's attention when they are consuming, typically watching, an advertisement or some other piece of digital content. And although this is not a new conversation, the specifics around how it actually works and the technology companies can now use to tap into this measurement are really just starting to come to light.

Now, some of the benefits of being able to more accurately measure how much of your marketing message is actually being taken in, as opposed to simply measuring clicks or impressions, are obvious. With a better understanding of the effectiveness of your campaign, you can make more informed decisions about what is working and what isn’t, and recalibrate accordingly as well as reduce ad spend waste.

But there are other benefits as well such as being better able to provide transparency withgreater media quality control over , and even reducing your carbon footprint by publishing fewer, more impactful ads, rather than having to use a more scattershot approach.

In the past we have used terms like viewability, which has long been the industry standard measurement. But viewability is not necessarily attention, because just because an ad is technically viewable, it doesn’t mean that it has been absorbed and remembered.

Phil mcdowell

Think of how over the years, we’ve seen pages so jam packed with nuisance ads that they are guaranteed to be ignored. Or the phenomenon of banner blindness where,as users, we become so accustomed to ads being placed in and around the content we actually want, that they are barely even seen.

Here I think it is important to note that we are talking about metrics, plural, because there isn’t just a single used to measure this oh so valuable attention.

The IAB for example has a model that measures attention per thousand impressions. It’s simply the percentage of people who looked at an ad, multiplied by the average time the ad was viewed, multiplied by a thousand.

Now this gets the job done and is certainly more effective than the old viewability model, but others in the industry are also developing more in depth approaches.

Companies are cropping up that are already providing specialised attention measurement services such as the US based company Adelaide, which has already partnered with big brands such as Coca-cola, Mars, Microsoft and American Express.

Phil mcdowell

Some established companies are developing their own models internally , such as the Attention Index like over at ShowHeroes, which digs into several more data points and aims to measure  not only straight attention, but also emotional response and relevancy, which in theory gives an even better understanding as to how memorable an ad actually is.

For example, how much is the user interacting with the players controls. If someone pauses an ad to try and discern what random fact their 10 year old is shouting down from upstairs, and then restarts it, they are more likely paying attention. The volume and clarity of the ad has a measurable impact, even the size of the player because if you’re engaged enough to make an ad full screen then it's likely you are really watching it.

There are other ways as well, even outside of the large data collection taken from broad use online.

Lab or focus group type tests such as eye tracking or facial coding like we talked about back in our CTV episode. And businesses are cropping specialising in these services as well such as one called LUMEN which combines eye tracking technology with predictive analytics to get its results.

Phil mcdowell

Whatever model or service is being used, the goal is for an advertiser to understand whether an ad is actually capturing the viewers attention and that the message is being absorbed, by distilling it into the common denominator of ‘seconds of time viewed’.

With this data, advertisers can then optimise their campaigns, and produce less, more effective content, which has an effect not only on an organisation's bottom line through less wasted ad spend and labour, but also reduces the amount of C02 that campaign produces.

And furthermore, what are the limitations of these current approaches to measuring attention.

More about that, in a moment…

Phil mcdowell

Ok so how on earth does measuring attention more effectively, have an impact on your carbon footprint? 

Well if you weren’t aware of how much of an impact digital marketing and the internet in general have on carbon emissions, I highly recommend you go and check out our other show Green About Media where we really get into explaining a whole range of topics under the heading of digital carbon emissions.

To give you an idea, a study done by fifty-five (link to that paper in the shownotes) analysed the digital campaign of a theoretical high-end French perfume brand,  and calculated the emissions derived from all processes necessary to implement and run it, including, creative production, delivery to various online platforms as well as audience targeting. 

The data from these activities was then converted into the amount of CO2 generated and with it surmised that a typical digital ad campaign from a single advertiser produces, get this, the equivalent of 160 round-trip flights between Paris and New York, or approximately 323 tons of carbon dioxide.

Phil mcdowell

Now as we said before high impressions alone are not necessarily an effective goal for campaigns, so if we could all use the information we can receive from attention metrics and produce less, more impactful impressions, there could be a marked reduction in emissions.

However there are of course limitations, especially at these early stages.

The currently used attention metrics methods generally only measure the short-term attention of a user, without being able to measure the long-term impact that ad had on them.

They don’t account for any offline advertising which means advertisers are at risk of over valuing their digital efforts and neglecting their analogue ones. See our digital vs analog episode for more about that one.

Another issue is the current lack of standardisation which can make it difficult to compare the relative effectiveness of campaigns.

But all this considered, one thing is for sure, this angle of measuring attention rather than just viewability or impressions is only going to get bigger and more important in the coming years. And as such you can expect it to be a pretty big part of the topics covered in our upcoming digital distillery events, so it won't be the last you hear of it.

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