• Genevieve Braine

Is 2022 the year for ‘attention’ in digital?

by Genevieve Braine, Client Partner at TPA Digital


It’s been a disruptive few years for media. First, an uptick in screen time as a result of stay-at-home orders provided widespread opportunities for brands to reach their audiences. Then, inevitably, screen fatigue kicked in and stay-at-home orders lifted – and so began an attention recession. With consumer attention wavering, and wider industry disruptions continuing to affect digital media tracking, now is a critical time for attention measurement.


In 2020, TPA Digital’s Senior Client Partner Dani Stewart explored the notion of quantifying attention metrics. In this piece we will revisit this concept 2 years on, investigating what has changed and whether true attention measurement is within reach for brands.


Why is attention important?

There is a difference between viewable and viewed ads. Existing MRC viewability metrics don’t necessarily determine whether an ad has been seen. Amplified Intelligence conducted a study in 2021 to show the difference between viewability and attention, highlighting a lack of correlation between the two.


This demonstrates that attention and viewability are not the same, otherwise, the metrics would move together, and ratios would remain the same. These differences emphasise that viewability is not a strong proxy for attention.





Where are we now?

When Dani discussed this topic in 2020, The Attention Council (TAC) was 1 year old and already leading the way in driving the uptake of attention metrics in advertising and marketing. Two years on, they boast 20+ members inclusive of agencies and large advertisers, as well as counting Mars’ Sorin Patilinet and AB InBev’s Paolo Provinciali as board members.


The issues of attention measurement standardisation and implementation disruption were addressed in TAC’s 2021 whitepaper, From Attention to Action, where a framework for incorporating attention into your media strategy is outlined for advertisers to tangibly take this forward. While there remain some limitations to adoption at this stage, a first-mover advantage is there for the taking.


This increase in education and clarity of next steps has led to further buy-in from agencies and tech partners:


Agencies

Many leading agencies are signed up to The Attention Council, and this has seen a large push for attention metrics. For example, Dentsu has been measuring attention to advertising through eye-tracking since 2018 and claimed an industry first in 2019 with the first campaign to optimise ads towards attention. More recently they have added to the body of research surrounding the topic, publishing “Unlocking the new currency of Attention” in 2021 which provides a UK perspective.


Omnicom has also notably embarked on an attention journey, working alongside audience measurement partner Amplified Intelligence, to codify attention-related levels of behaviour and turn attention as a metric into activation and a usable KPI.



Verification Partners

DoubleVerify and Integral Ad Science (IAS) have each launched similar attention products, both complementing their existing viewability tools. The methodology behind each varies, IAS has added Quality Attention - using time-in-view to strengthen their viewability metrics, while DoubleVerify uses a variety of data points - including time in view, share of screen, engagement, and others to form their metric, Authentic Attention. This form of reporting allows brands to draw comparisons between traditional viewability and attention, as well as begin to optimise towards attention as a metric.


DSPs

Generally, DSPs continue to work closely with brands in the form of enabling custom builds of attention algorithms, though these remain custom and require an external partner to enable the attention aspect. As a result of this, it’s likely that in-built attention optimisation tools are on major DSP’s roadmaps for the near future.


What are the challenges?

Previously, the largest challenges to the uptake of attention as a metric were: measurement consistency, attention panel-based data sitting outside of an ad server and the challenge of publisher uptake. Now, with education surrounding attention increased and many industry disruptions and changes underway, these challenges hold varying degrees of importance and potentially even opportunity.


Measurement Consistency

This is still up for debate. However, as previously mentioned, taking action before there is a single uniform Attention Metric could offer the first-mover advantage and also allow brands to help shape the outlook of this themselves.


At present, some partners may use time-in view as a proxy, whereas other vendors are using a variety of metrics such as interaction with the ad, length of interaction, and impact of ad size. These are all valid ways to model attention, but while there is limited consistency of classification across channels it does present some challenges when trying to factor those into a multi-channel media plan.


Cookies and Privacy

Measuring performance will become increasingly limited as we face ongoing privacy regulations that alter the landscape, including Google deprecating the 3rd party cookie in the imminent future. These changes are impacting the way we’re able to target and measure campaigns, in some cases, this is putting a greater focus back on brand measurement proxies. This is an opportunity for attention to present itself as a richer and more accurate metric for success than the likes of traditional viewability and reach metrics.


Summary

Media has been through many changes in recent years, particularly as the pandemic has changed our consumption habits. Getting consumers to pay attention to your advertising is important; numerous studies have shown that attention is the key to sales and brand uplift compared to the use of viewability that the industry has grown to rely on.


There are still challenges around classification, measurement consistency and industry changes such as GDPR and the 3rd party cookie. However, compared to two years ago, there are many more products on the market that measure attention; through verification tools, DSPs, and agency partners. The availability of tools allows brands to start testing and incorporating attention into their media strategies today, minimising ad wastage and using attention as a richer metric than viewability. As Publicis’s Hobbs says: “I am expecting that 2022 will be a defining year for attention and there will be a tipping point, taking attention [from] being a research topic to a credible media currency.”