Attention: The Saving Grace of Measurement? Or Another Industry Fad??

Advertisers strive to reach their target audiences. That’s a given. But, long gone are the days of simply ‘reaching audiences’ – the biggest question in AdTech right now is how do you ensure your audiences are truly engaged, and how can we really measure that?  In particular, how are businesses working to capture and retain audience attention in an era marked by information overload and fleeting consumer focus? 

After all, there is a key difference between something being visible, and something being consumed. In some cases, a passing glimpse will leave a lasting impact. In others, a drawn-out video will annoy and disdain a viewer. For me, ‘attention’ is more complex than just understanding if an ad was seen or engaged with.

I was watching the Scaling Attention speaker session with IAS & Lumen at the ExchangeWire Attention event, where Mike Follett, Managing Director, Lumen, took us back to a childhood memory of Eye Spy. Hours of fun for many of us in our distant memories, however, a game that presents a key lesson for us today.  It’s essentially about identifying the difference between viewability and viewing – “things are there to be seen but not always noticed”.  And some things are noticed but not always seen.

For me, the buzz around ‘Attention’ is becoming another industry craze that fails to answer what we hope it will. Why? Because ‘attention’ means everything and anything to everyone. Before I delve any deeper into my thoughts, let’s explore Attention in a little more detail.


The importance of ‘Attention Metrics’ in AdTech

In traditional advertising, success was often measured by impressions and clicks. However, these metrics alone fail to provide a comprehensive understanding of consumer engagement. In the digital realm, where attention spans are limited and competition for attention is fierce, tracking and analyzing attention metrics have become indispensable.

Attention metrics encompass a range of parameters that go beyond simple views or clicks. They delve deeper into user behaviour, interaction, and engagement levels. These metrics offer insights into how users engage with advertisements, how much time they spend, and whether they take desired actions after exposure.


Why is everybody talking about Attention Metrics right now?

The main reason behind its growth in popularity is down to the simple fact that the AdTech world is changing. With the third-party cookie set to demise as of next year, old ways of working are no longer applicable. And resurrected methodologies such as contextual targeting are taking a greater share of budgets. In essence, contextual targeting – and the data derived by contextual technologies – is feeding an advertiser with relevant insights surrounding the places and environments that consumers like best. 

“Attention is a really big topic as we move into a privacy-protected world,” opens Rose Silford-McLoughlin, Programmatic Partner, dentsu. “We’re moving away from third-party audiences, measurement is becoming more difficult. We have to measure effectively in a cookieless environment.” source.

Further, we now have the data that perhaps we didn’t before. Technology platforms and expert services are available that allow advertisers to essentially stitch all their data and insights together, to make better and more informed decisions to deliver the outcomes that matter. 

And, arguably more importantly, the industry is accessing AI technologies more than ever before, allowing for the opportunity to turn this data into actionable functions Think about predictive analytics which can be used pre-and-post bit to drive better campaigns. 

All these moving parts are creating the perfect time to bring into focus the idea of ‘Attention’. But once again, I ask: what does Attention truly mean? And how can it be smartly applied depending on the environment in which we are consuming media? Attention across a mobile device will drastically differ from consuming TV and podcasts, and so on. I personally feel the fragmentation within measurement will be with us for a long time, and although ‘attention’ may be able to fix part of it, I’m not sure we’re quite there yet.


Putting my Positive Hat On…

I’m not dismissing the incredible opportunity that Attention can bring to AdTech. Understanding attention metrics empowers advertisers and marketers to optimize ad campaigns effectively. By analyzing data insights, they can refine targeting strategies, optimize ad creatives, and tailor content to resonate with their audience’s preferences and behaviours. Continuous testing, experimentation, and adapting to emerging trends are crucial in leveraging attention metrics to drive advertising success.

It goes without saying, the journey of attention will be a huge focus as we move into 2024. And I am excited to see how it evolves. But for now, I still stand slightly on the fence. Perhaps I need to define what attention means to me. Or perhaps I’m just too long in the tooth and have seen too many measurement fads come and go, promising to be the new ‘silver bullet’, only to have their methodology undermined and deemed useless a year or 2 later, to get excited about anything anymore.