How Attention-Guaranteed Media Buys Will Impact the Industry

OMD and Playground xyz leaders offer perspectives on the attention economy

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The so-called attention economy is fractured, and its leaders largely disagree about how and when publishers should guarantee attention to advertisers.

While vendors are largely bullish on attention guarantees and their potential impact on the advertising market, other industry players tend to be more cautious.

Omnicom Media Group agency OMD continues to conduct attention measurement research, but according to its chief investment officer Kelly Metz, it’s impossible to guarantee attention at scale unless the industry standardizes attention metrics.

Rob Hall, CEO of GumGum attention measurement firm Playground xyz, has a different perspective. He supports duration-based attention guarantees, or the concept that all advertising should engage viewers for a number of seconds. If it were up to him, publishers would begin guaranteeing attention greater than zero seconds as soon as possible.

Hall and Metz shared their perspectives with ADWEEK.

These interviews have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

How could attention-guaranteed buys change the industry?

Hall: It’s hard to argue there’s any value when attention is not present at all. Like viewability, advertisers shouldn’t pay for ads with no attention, and publishers should be creating advertising experiences accordingly.

We believe that brands are on a journey to understand how much attention they need in order to drive a specific outcome (be that brand or sales lift). At Playground xyz we call this optimal attention.

This makes the notion of attention-guaranteed buys much more interesting because different brands (and their different creative executions) all require different amounts of attention to move the needle on outcomes. A leading fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) brand might require two seconds of attention on its ad to drive outcomes, while a challenger brand in finance might require six seconds.

Unlike viewability, where everyone is chasing the same inventory (i.e. 70%+ viewable), this focus on attention means that the FMCG brand and the finance brand are actually going after different pockets of inventory. Publishers can package and price that inventory accordingly, and the brands will be able to know they are hitting their optimal attention goals that in turn drive brand or sales lift.

Metz: “Our research is still nascent. A guarantee requires that both buy and sell sides agree to transact on that value, and to date we do not have the predictability and scale of data we would need to enable such a guarantee.

What we do have today is very compelling attention research that can inform planning insights and marketplace strategies, which is why we at Omnicom have been so motivated to work with our partners in generating a large body of reliable attention research studies.”

How do publishers (and the open internet) stand to benefit from attention measurement and guarantees?

Hall: I mentioned the creation of a better marketplace for supply and demand based on attention, but there’s another interesting and positive twist for publishers.

Again referring to viewability, two different FMCG brands could come and buy off a publisher, each asking to clear a viewability threshold. These two advertisers are effectively competing for the same inventory, and while that might drive price up a little, it also means the publishers can only sell that inventory once. Attention metrics, however, are showing that different creatives can get radically higher/lower attention on different contexts. Publishers should be able to use attention tech in order to help match the right creative to the right context, and in turn be able to better monetize more of their inventory.

Would attention guarantees be harmful to any publishers? I understand programmatic guarantees on the open exchange offer a solution for weeding out fake news sites and made-for-advertising (MFA) sites.

Hall: Yes. When linking attention to outcomes, it becomes clear that not all attention is created equal. Those actors who have low attention inventory generally (or game the system to try and force attention when it’s not justified) are going to deliver much worse downstream effects/outcomes for brands, and this in turn will make their inventory less valuable. Viewability created a market of false incentives, and attention has a chance to correct that.

Metz: A publisher providing a guarantee might put more pressure on what we’ve historically called the long tail, in addition to weeding out MFAs. I want to stress if attention is guaranteed, it has to be a proven, consistent metric that is well understood and scalable. We are not there yet on attention metrics.

How do you think attention-guaranteed buys will impact big tech platforms—Meta, Google, X, Snap, etc.?

Hall: These companies are all very advanced when it comes to delivering value for advertisers. They understand that to command huge spends, they need to show real ROI for their customers. The notion of attention-guaranteed buys here is really just a new way to do just that, and it’s our hope they adopt attention metrics (and buying) just like the open internet will.”

For more on this topic, check out ADWEEK’s upcoming issue on March 12.