Mike Shaughnessy

Attention is the Remedy for Constant Distraction

Michael Shaughnessy, Chief Operating Officer at Kargo. With an extensive career in ad technology, Michael Shaughnessy has experienced several changes in how advertisers measure the efficacy of their campaigns.  

He spoke with Realeyes about how the rise of attention measurement dovetails with the rise of interest in sustainability and supply path optimization, the value of looking at creative and media attention in parallel, and why understanding attention is about asking the right questions. 


Why is attention important? 

If you look at today's digital reality, the average publisher is working with so many different partners to help monetize its site.  

In some instances, [a publisher] can have as many as 70 different partners. Anyone who is really interested in attention and works within the digital advertising industry, it's important to acquaint yourself with publishers’ txt files so you can see all of the different partners that go into monetizing a publisher's site.  

All of us have so much going on in our lives. We check our phones, probably six times an hour, just to look at our email. There’s a lot going on. 

When it comes to brands breaking through with their messages, they should really take into consideration time of day, the types of creative that they're leveraging, and the contextual components because otherwise the average person is seeing hundreds and hundreds of ads per day, and things get diluted.  


      The new wave of supply path optimization is really about value creation, and I think that attention is one way of measuring that value creation.  

Another reason why attention now is getting so much attention - pun intended - is that there are other factors that are starting to influence digital advertising.  

With each generation, people are becoming more socially conscious about the environment, so if the average publisher is using dozens and dozens of monetization partners that do this same thing, it impacts our carbon footprint. 

And they're basically auctioning off the same advertising slot multiple times, where multiple different exchanges or partners are hosting that data and such it's starting to make a situation where advertising is impacting our environment. But then to take it a step forward is that there are so many impressions that are wasteful because they don't capture the consumer's attention in the right environment.  

Whether people are watching on a PC or TV, [you want to make sure] that someone is paying attention or that [an ads] is relevant to the programming that they're watching, or that the creative is something that is seen and memorable and drives better lift.  

There are even bigger factors, like sustainability, where, if we use the right attention metrics or measurement standards, it could also have some social goodwill as well.  


      Attention goes beyond blunt metrics like video completions or viewability ... attention exceeds that by showing contextual relevance or share of voice.   


Why, specifically this moment in time, is attention all the rage?  

Since 2015/2016, everyone has been talking about supply path optimization, and I think that buyers and publishers - as well as agencies - are getting smart enough about who they partner with for a couple of reasons.  

The new wave of supply path optimization is really about value creation, and I think that attention is one way of measuring that value creation. The other thing, too, is that there need to be additional ways to measure the impact of your messaging, branding, and storytelling.  

Attention goes beyond just like blunt metrics like video completions or viewability. And while some of those metrics may be integral to measuring effectiveness of your storytelling, [attention exceeds that by showing] contextual relevance or share of voice.  

Is it an advertisement that is taking up the full screen on a phone and has some sort of branded element that you can recall? Is there a lot of ad clutter?  

There's pressure to prove efficacy, whether it be within mobile or desktop. But even more importantly, as consumers [spend more time] on streaming services [like CTV], it’s going to be really important to demonstrate the effectiveness of advertising.  

Advertisers need to demonstrate that their storytelling is breaking through, and there's so many options to measure what's working or what's not.  


      dvertisers need to demonstrate that their storytelling is breaking through, and there's so many options to measure what's working or what's not.   


There’s creative attention and media attention. Do you think it's important to view those in in tandem or separately?  

I think that it's critical that we view them as being intertwined. They're interdependent; they have to work together because the reality is you want to reach someone at the right moment and in the right environment.  

You need to make sure that you're able to maximize that opportunity and that your messaging is coming through, and to be able to capture attention through creative.  

This is another opportunity for the industry to get this right because, for so long, we were so fixated on leveraging different types of third parties and audiences. Creative was always second when it comes to the amount of time that we invest in our media plans, and the way that we communicate with consumers.  

The way that we standardize it as an industry is that we realize that these two things really do work together, and that's how you maximize your storytelling. There's been some studies that have confirmed that it's important to rotate your creative, and we've done a ton of studies with this as well is that you may be able to reinforce the same message. But if you keep using the same creative, you are detracting from the attention of the consumer or the favorability or the lift that you're trying to drive.


Several brands and agencies have really jumped headfirst into attention. What's the best advice for those that are just starting to get up to speed? 

The advice that I would give is to understand the different things that feed into the attention model; whether it be the share of voice, viewability, or ad clutter: just familiarize yourself with that. But then also look at the opportunity of how you can increase your reach to different consumers on the [mobile devices] e.g., the iPhone.  

Another way to elevate targeting or measurement strategies is thinking about how you could curate programmatic private marketplace deals that are focused on some of these attributes. How can you elevate your verification strategy by evaluating partners that measure [attention]? How can you have high impact and influence?  

Also, thinking about what's going on with our carbon footprint, with all the data that's being collected and processed for every single edge unit that is firing off. [Understanding attention is] about asking questions, and that's the advice that I would give.  

I also think that publishers should be more integrated in the conversation because they are the ones that control user experience for the content that we're consuming. They too can select which partners they plug into, so they can influence the immersive or attention-grabbing units in those content environments.