The Rush to Measure Attention Calls for a Collaborative and Coordinated Approach

An overview of the challenges in the evolving attention economy

In the rapidly evolving landscape of digital advertising, brands are in a race to capture consumer attention across various channels including banners, videos and social media content.

As a result, the concept of attention has become a crucial metric for understanding the impact of advertisements. However, as we delve into the realm of attention metrics, a collaborative and coordinated approach is essential to ensure proper measurement and establish a solid foundation.

In today’s complex media environment, more marketers are realizing that impressions alone are insufficient. The question arises: When audiences encounter an ad, are they genuinely engaged with the content? And does this engagement lead to tangible outcomes like sales or leads for the brand?

The quest for precision

The need for more precise metrics to evaluate impression quality has spurred marketers to investigate further. Their goal is to uncover how ads shape user perceptions and ultimately drive results. In 2022, we witnessed a shift from traditional metrics like impressions and viewability, signaling the emergence of attention metrics as a new focal point.

However, a challenge lies in the absence of a universal definition for attention metrics. This situation is reminiscent of the early days of viewability and ad verification, where each stakeholder had their own interpretation. Complicating matters are three distinct approaches to measuring attention:

  1. Data proxy signals: Using data signals from devices and publishers to record behavior and on-screen engagement. These signals encompass various actions, such as mouse-over clicks, volume adjustments, ad expansions, play/pause interactions and ad viewability.
  2. Biometric observation: Gathering real-time insights into people’s physiological responses to on-screen or audio content. This includes brainwaves, heart rate and eye movement. These devices can detect user presence, sound engagement, body movement, screen focus, facial expressions, cognitive responses and emotions.
  3. Psychological insight: Employing surveys, panel discussions and focus groups to assess the emotional impact of ads. This approach delves into aspects like brand consideration, awareness and sentiment, aiming to understand whether ads enhance brand perception.

Mixed enthusiasm

A movement is underway where brands and agencies are exploring a model that would hold publishers accountable for delivering ads to an engaged audience.

Attention metrics are gaining traction, particularly in domains like TV, digital video, gaming and, soon, audio. Brands aiming to build awareness are adopting these attention metrics for measurement and optimization, while direct response advertisers focus on specific outcomes like conversions and sales.

However, not all stakeholders are equally enthusiastic about attention metrics. Some publishers express concerns that this shift could impact ad revenue, pricing and inventory.

The question arises: Should publishers be responsible for driving outcomes through attention metrics? The role of creativity and the potential impact of ads that don’t engage effectively are also part of the discussion.

Embracing attention metrics responsibly

As we embark on this journey of attention metrics, it’s crucial to distinguish between attention and engagement. While engagement often leads to attention, they are not synonymous.

In 2023, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) launched an initiative focused on attention metrics and established the Attention Task Force. Its mission is to create a common language for data signals and measurement techniques, ensuring consistency in the language of attention metrics.

However, before we fully embrace attention metrics, it’s important to proceed with caution. Rushing into this new territory without standardized guidelines could lead to inconsistent measurement practices.

Understanding the significance of establishing a strong foundation for attention measurement, the IAB has laid out a practical plan for the Attention Task Force:

  1. Gather input from various stakeholders to understand their needs and capabilities.
  2. Develop informative guides and practical examples to foster a shared understanding of different measurement methods.
  3. Facilitate collaborative discussions among agencies, brands, publishers and technology providers to establish criteria for measuring attention.

As the IAB collaborates with the Media Rating Council to establish attention metrics standards by 2024, challenges may arise due to the industry’s enthusiasm. Ad-tech companies and marketers, eager to pioneer attention-focused solutions, might inadvertently pressure publishers to adapt their transactions to align with attention metrics. It’s crucial to consider the complexities across logistical, operational and financial dimensions before embracing attention as a currency.

A path to success

To harness the potential of attention metrics, a collective effort is essential. Success lies not in adopting the latest technologies, but in sharing insights, use cases and best practices. The real victory is in fostering a common understanding in the intricate world of media, transforming attention metrics into a valuable tool for advertisers seeking deeper insights into consumer behavior.

As we navigate this uncharted territory, the journey begins with education and collaboration. By exercising patience and adhering to principled approaches, the advertising industry can effectively measure attention. With a solid foundation and unified efforts, attention metrics can indeed become a valuable asset, enhancing ad effectiveness and driving meaningful consumer engagement in the evolving digital landscape.