Attention Measurement’s Global Footprint
With nearly 1/3rd of the big six agency billings, GroupM has huge influence on how clients advertise. Simon Thomas, Global Director - Audiences Research and Media Investment Management at GroupM is a longstanding proponent of attention measurement and has witnessed its growth over the years.
He discussed how attention is becoming a global phenomenon, why creative and media attention need to be viewed in tandem, and why every organization should employ a test-and-learn strategy.
Why is attention important?
Attention is a fundamental part of communication. And brand marketing is about communicating the benefits, culture, and uniqueness of a brand or a price point at whatever it may be. It's a fundamental part of advertising and marketing in that you're communicating to either existing or potential consumers.
The battle for attention has gotten exponentially harder over probably the last 15 to 20 years during the digital transformation. Attention can either be active attention, which is conscious, or it could be inactive attention or subliminal attention, whereby you're bringing from the back of memory.
In the Kahneman System 1 and System 2 thinking, a lot of what we do is based on spontaneity and brain muscle memory. We don't consciously make decisions to bring other explicit brand sentiment, value benefits, or whatever it may be, to a consumer and have their attention, focus, or in some way, neurologically, go through a process where a brand consideration is made fundamental.
Quite frankly, it's what advertising is all about. We have to remember - we're talking about advertising. We're not talking about impressions or anything like that. This is about brand communication.
|Attention can either be active attention, which is conscious, or it could be inactive attention or subliminal attention, whereby you're bringing from the back of memory.|
You mentioned you have a global role. And, obviously, here in the US, attention is dominating industry events. There are several companies based in Australia and the UK. Is attention talked about more in different countries? Or is everyone starting to embrace it?
That's a great question. Actually, the US is very active right now. My GroupM colleagues in the US are doing a lot of work on attention and looking at various partners in the different sectors of attention: from campaign measurement side to attention metric usage in planning or creative optimization.
The US is very active, thanks to the great work done by the ARF recently and my good friend Jon Watts at CIMM. I think the US has caught up.
I've probably been looking at attention in its current guise for probably the last 5 or 6 years. We work through Mediacom with Mars on creative optimization with Sorin Patilinet. That's a great case study. And it is literally with Realeyes going back 4 or 5 years.
Attention became quite popular with my friend Karen Nelson-Field, who was talking about attention 4-5 years ago, when she was at the Institute, even before she moved to Adelaide University and became a professor, which is fantastic. While attention is not new, it was in various silos.
Within GroupM, with roughly a third of the [Big 6 agency] world's billings, we've actually have some large international clients for whom attention has been front of mind for some years. I think what happened is its use within the activation sphere, particularly activation optimization for campaigns within the digital display area began to take hold within programmatic buying, which began to get a lot of traction, and our friends at Adelaide and Playground XYZ and the Nordics - we must remember the Nordics, and we must remember our French cousins as well.
|...we have a lot of very large international clients for whom attention has been front of mind for some years...|
We've been probably doing programmatic optimization on attention metrics, certainly in Central Europe, Germany, and Switzerland, probably for the last 3 or 4 years.
It’s being driven by clients as well, asking the right questions. But that's clients that weren't already involved in attention. I can think of some clients that have been involved in attention for 20-30 odd years. Things like eye tracking are not new. What we've got is far better camera definition and resolutions, which makes [tracking attention] a hell of a lot easier.
We went through sort of the initial pioneer growth phase, some people went into the trough of disillusionments, and I think it's now becoming a far more mass-market area - both on the buy and the sell side. But I think advertisers in particular are particularly interested from their perspective because it's an opportunity to look at ways to get a better return from their advertising bucks. And that's what it's all about. It's about ROI. It's not about eyeballs and impressions. It's about what those eyeballs and those impressions are doing to deliver an outcome.
|I think advertisers in particular are particularly interested from their perspective because it's an opportunity to look at ways to get a better return from their advertising bucks...|
What's probably been frustrating for several advertisers over the last few years haven't seen the sell side come back to us in terms of the outcomes. What's changed is probably in the last six months, and most of all is a much greater acknowledgment of the need to encompass the outcome as part of that measurement and the planning process.
If you are a major global or regional advertiser, you want this opportunity in all of your markets. One of the really interesting things is regional variations and even market variations in the way attention is used. Not everybody watches video in the same way that you do in the US.
|If you are a major global or regional advertiser, you want this opportunity in all of your markets.|
Should media attention work hand in hand with creative or should they be viewed separately?
It absolutely has to be integrated. It's a continuous circle. An attention metric goes in somewhere like a viewability metric on steroids. You know, it's different because it has such an impact on different levels within creative optimization.
In terms of your creative message, there's no point having the most efficiently procured inventory, if you're then not going to put a very good ad in there. Additionally, you might not find the sales uplift, likewise, if you produce fantastic, creative, but it's to the wrong consumers in the wrong mindsets in the wrong need states at the wrong stage of their purchase journey. You're wasting your money [either way].
It's a combination of all those: strategic planning, tactical planning, and activation moments all put together. That's what media agencies and advertising agencies do. I come from a full-service agency background back in the nineties; we worked with the creative guys and the brand planners. And I think what we're seeing certainly within GroupM. And this is very much part of what Mark Read has been talking about within WPP.
As you said, there are some regions where attention is getting up to speed. There are some clients or companies that haven't yet embraced it. What's the best advice for an organization that maybe is just starting to understand what attention is and how to apply it to their business?
Well, test and learn. You know you don't find out unless you try it. Advertisers that are engaged with attention - some have had great results, as I mentioned with Mars earlier. And attention is just one part of a much bigger data, science, and even deep learning and AI-based marketing planning process.
|Advertisers that are engaged with attention - some have had great results, as I mentioned with Mars|
It's still nascent, you know, I think the problem we've got is moving it away from a pure activation level back into the planning phase. The importance for me is when we can use it in planning to ensure we're going into the right media channels, but also into the right media mix. And it's that synergy across the multimedia mix is so important. And if you're just using it for activation in a particular media channel, it will give you advantages, but you're losing the holistic opportunity and benefit that you might have.
That's a difficult message to put over the clients - particularly in the current climate, where we've got significant economic headwinds. And it's a very difficult trading environment for many companies. It's a difficult thing to go off and change what has been successfully crafted and fine-tuned over several years to add an extra dimension.