Sam Mansour, Oracle

Let the Attention Data Tell the Story

Sam Mansour is senior manager, product management at Oracle, has witnessed the significant changes in advertising metrics from the publisher, creative, media and measurement side. He spoke to Realeyes about how technology has caught up to the industry’s desire to measure effectiveness, broke down the different types of attention measurement and gave simple three-step advice for new entrants into the field.  

Why is attention important?  

Attention is the entry way to many things, but, most importantly, to our memory. 

If you're sitting in a classroom, and you're not paying attention to the lesson, it's highly likely that when you come to take the test, you're going to do poorly. If you shift that model to advertising, you can also make the same assumption that if a consumer paid no attention to an ad, he or she is less likely to have any kind of brand recall or association with the brand or the ad itself. So attention is really important to everything we do as humans. But it has a particular relevance to that effectiveness. 

Everything old is new again. I think it's because our ability to statistically analyze data and link it to other data sets and to predict outcomes has increased dramatically. Technology never stands still. And we're in the age of taking full advantage of machine learning, AI, cloud computing, and the like.  


The state of attention measurement today includes a very wide array of solutions and tools.

In my work in attention for many years, and as a member of the IAB task force, I see attention measurement falling into three main buckets:

1. Biometric Attention: sensor-rich data from eye tracking, heart rate, skin conduction. That is now available and hopefully coming from consenting adults.

2. Predictive Attention: the ability to take research and then apply that at massive scales in ways that you weren't able to do before. So, for instance, an example might be a study that red letters on a yellow background is going to grab more attention than gray letters on a blue background. You can code that into an algorithm and process bazillions of images or ads and recognize when that sort of thing happens and score accordingly. Because you took that research and can now make very large-scale predictions based on that research.

3. Census or Proxy Attention: where you measure every single ad. And all these different environments and measures, all kinds of different attributes, from time spent to hovers and clicks, the screen real estate, and environments, e.g., the sentiment of the adjacent stuff on the page.

The fundamental shift has been that our ability to combine these things and get holistic interpretation around where attention might be is unprecedented.  


      ...we're in the age of taking full advantage of machine learning, AI, cloud computing, and the like.   


Who should be paying for attention measurement   

I've been around this business for a really long time and have been exposed to many different use cases. I've worked at ad agencies, I've worked at publishers, and I've been on the measurement side for quite some time, and what I can tell you from at least the use cases that I've had experience with, in the ecosystem, that it applies broadly.'s fundamental to how humans interact with the world, and particularly with that effectiveness.  

Let's go through some examples. Imagine being in a creative department at an ad agency and using biometric attention to help you make a decision about which cut to use, or which commercial is going to lead to more engagement from a potential audience. That same agency's media department is likely to use census or proxy attention and send that out with the ad in the real environments to understand in the different environments where this ad appeared. How did engagement happen on the pub side?  

When I was at Time, Inc., we were doing a site redesign of one of our sites and were looking at the different possibilities. And we used eye tracking to try and understand which design was going to lead to more engagement from users and what was going to help them find new sections and new content? 

Those same publishers also look to understand attention because they're packaging up their ad bundles to meet advertiser expectations. And when it comes to the technologies and the platforms in the middle -  DSPs and SSPs - the best of them play a curation role. They're not just facilitating a transaction; they're actually involved in curating and making sure that invalid traffic is filtered out. But attention plays an important role in that curation as well. And you really cover the whole ecosystem, and there are used cases in every single niche of the ecosystem that relates to attention, because I think again, it's fundamental to how humans interact with the world, and particularly with that effectiveness. 


What is your advice for brands or agencies, or individual marketers that either at the beginning of their journey or they started to think about attention. Maybe they've done some trials, but they feel like they're behind the curve on how they get up to speed?

The first thing is to understand that there's no one solution or one thing that's going to ensure that your advertising is always effective. You really need to set clear objectives, be curious, ask lots of questions, and be aware of your own biases. 

Let the data tell its own story, embrace change, and work with smart people to better understand what your objectives are and how to achieve them. 

That would be my advice, and there's plenty of great resources, including the resource that you guys have put together to showcase what is all available in this new attention economy.  

      There's plenty of great resources, including the resource that you guys have put together to showcase what is all available in this new attention economy.   


Thank you for the plug and anything else you wanted to add – like what people should be focused on in the next year or 18 months?   

It's really important to understand that this has been around for a really long time. Attention is fundamental to everything that we do as humans. But there are different ways to measure it. And really understanding what these different ways are and how they might connect to tell a full or richer story is the key. 

And then I guess the last thing is just have fun while you're doing it. It's advertising - we should be having fun while we're engaging in, and the efforts have people consider your brand or your site or your content.