Your attention please: How to navigate attention metrics

Marketers should understand the value they seek and their objectives when experimenting with attention measurement — this is because attention is neither a commodity nor a currency and is notoriously hard to capture.

(Photo credit: Unsplash).

A host of attention-based ad solutions have come to market in the past few years, with a wide range of options aimed at helping advertisers at different stages of their campaigns—from pre-planning tools to products capable of optimising campaigns in real time.

From DoubleVerify's Attention Lab to mobile advertising platform Kargo's Venti, these products seek to address demand by advertisers to begin testing where and how attention products fit into their strategy.

However, according to IAB Australia's Ad Attention Measurement Landscape Report, too much attention is being placed on ad attention metrics in isolation.

The report found emerging evidence of the correlation between greater ad attention and business outcomes. However, it concludes that ad attention measurement is not a silver bullet and that advertisers still need to use a range of metrics to understand the holistic impact of their advertising investments.

So how should advertisers approach attention metrics? As with any new technology, the first step in exploring attention solutions is to research how they work and the problems they solve, explains Kevin Smyth, head of sales for Asia at PlaygroundXYZ.

"Matching available solutions against your existing challenges—be it more granular campaign measurement, identifying poor-performing ad placements, or anything else—will help you develop theories for testing," Smyth tells Campaign Asia-Pacific.

"The next step would be to run test campaigns using the products you think will deliver the results. Test campaigns should either validate or disprove your theories, and over time you'll form a prominent picture of the products that work and those that do not."

Smyth recommends advertisers apply attention measurement to any channels they can, comparing the insights uncovered to the metrics they currently use.

"We have found attention signals to be far more effective at measuring overall ad effectiveness, especially against standard metrics such as viewability and click-through ratio (CTR)," he adds.

(L-R) Karen Nelson-Field, Kevin Smyth, Jordan Khoo, Paul Sigaloff


When choosing attention metric partners and methods available in the market, professor Karen Nelson-Field, chief executive and founder at Amplified Intelligence, says vendors selling wrong metrics dressed up as attention bring confusion and hesitancy for change.

She notes the industry has settled for 'good enough' before, and when building an attention-based audience measurement category, guiding rules around data quality going into attention products must be followed. The principle rules for data quality are human, private, safe, natural, accurate and consistent.

"There are many vendors in the market now. Still, the easiest way to think about the difference in data quality is to split them into two buckets—modelled attention data or human attention data. Put another way, man versus machine is principally modelled or principally human," Nelson-Field tells Campaign Asia-Pacific.

For example, some vendors use metadata such as ad size, scroll speed or time-in-view to make assumptions about whether humans pay attention to ads. However, their beliefs could be wrong because human behaviour is complex and not easily predicted with a few simple factors.

The accuracy of products using modelled attention alone needs to be more accurate in the reality of human behaviour, resulting in a lack of precision and consistency across tests.

"Some vendors collect human attention data from real humans via camera technology and then use this data as a true north to train models for products as above. This is very different from metadata models alone. When an attention model is continuously trained against how humans behave in real life, its accuracy strengthens, delivering consistent results across tests," adds Nelson-Field.

Impact on business outcomes and creativity

Attention metrics provide non-sparse and quality-based data, indicating to advertisers how well their ad resonates with their audience. Advertisers can use attention metrics to measure and optimise brand outcomes, particularly awareness and recall.

Mondelez for instance, which owns brands like Oreo, Cadbury Dairy Milk and Toblerone chocolate, has seen high exposure impressions correlate with a 9% increase in brand favorability and an 8% increase in brand consideration after investing in attention metrics.

Paul Sigaloff, vice president and head of Asia-Pacific at Yahoo, explains that greater attention gives a higher impact, which increases the chance of ads prompting purchases. Even if an advertiser's objective is awareness, greater engagement leads to higher memory retention.

However, he cautions high attention will only be valuable and impact business outcomes if the attention is on the things that matter. Even if attention is there but the brand and messaging are missing; advertisers will waste attention. When attention is what an advertiser works so hard for but it's being misattributed to a competitor, it results in a loss.

"Ensuring that attention leads to positive business outcomes will also require understanding the entire consumer journey with an omnichannel and full-funnel strategy," Sigaloff explains to Campaign Asia-Pacific.

"If you have already worked hard to earn attention, ensure that you reap its benefits and drive positive business outcomes. Particularly, with top and middle-funnel marketing, close the loop by having a strategy that pushes consumers down the funnel."

Advertisers can also use insights gained from attention metrics to adjust creativity. These insights can help them understand how good the creative is compared to competitors in the category and get people to pay attention when the brand is present.

Nelson-Field explains subjective creative is the understanding of how good the creative is, the type of testing most people are aware of. It reflects how likeable or fun the creative is. Objective creativity, meanwhile, is even more critical to brand growth because it measures 'how likely' people will link the brand to the ad.

"We see all the time that even highly emotive creative might not get chosen at the point of sale due to their branding being wrongly placed throughout the ad," says Nelson-Field.

"As such, marketers should consider using attention data to adjust both the message/story and the brand delivery."

Traditional metrics and privacy

Attention—while a vital metric to equalise error that sits behind impression delivery—will never be a currency unto itself like a reach. Genuine attention is measured by measuring humans, and there are ethics around collecting this data due to its use of cameras.

So the collection of human attention data will never scale to the point where traditional, less invasive methods of reach can scale. As such, attention will evolve to be a vital component of the media ecosystem but will remain appended to reach, not replace it.

Smyth says that while viewability, CTR, time in view and the video completion rate is still significant for most advertisers, attention signals are effective validators.

"For instance, imagine you have two ad formats running in a campaign; both are roughly the same cost-per-metrics, and both are securing similar CTRs. By overlaying attention data, you can determine which unit is the most cost-effective in terms of securing attention, and therefore the one you should optimise towards," Smyth explains.

As signals degrade, it is more important than ever that advertisers have the right tools to maximise success, ensuring they stand out without impacting consumer privacy. According to a Symantec cybersecurity services firm poll, 83% of internet users are concerned about privacy.

Jordan Khoo, managing director for APAC at DoubleVerify, points out industry regulations addressing these concerns, such as the General Data Protection Regulation and California Consumer Privacy Act, impacting how advertisers target audiences and measure success.

"Limitations on Apple's Identifier for Advertisers now require app developers to request permission to track users," he tells Campaign Asia-Pacific.

"Low opt-in rates pose challenges for targeting and attribution. Furthermore, the deprecation of cookies across all major browsers is expected to limit personalised advertising across 80% of web traffic and 30% of mobile traffic, respectively. Deeper attention metrics would improve campaign performance and business outcomes."

This story first appeared on Campaign Asia-Pacific.


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