Moving Towards an Attention Revolution in Advertising
Thaer Namruti, EVP Global Data and Technology, Publicis Groupe has been involved in advances in attention measurement for many years, having witnessed the birth of viewability and now a huge proponent of attention measurement. He discussed how agencies can help brands navigate this landscape, why standardization is important, and how companies should create their own unique path to understanding attention.
What is your view on defining attention?
The link between attention, brand health, and business outcomes is clear, based on various industry research.
Given the buzz over the last 12 months around this topic, you’d think that marketers discovered an entirely new concept. But you know, spoiler alert, advertising attention is not a new idea. Since the printed newspaper, which featured ads in the mid-nineteenth century, brands have been trying to attract audiences. Attention, however, when it comes to a commonly agreed definition, there is surprisingly little academic work in this field, especially given the fundamental role of advertising in garnering and retaining attention in contemporary research.
Marketers should think of attention as a scarce resource, then an increased understanding of attention can fuel better client marketing strategies. Obviously you've had key thought leaders, such as Amplified’s Professor Karen Nelson-Field, putting forward their definition of attention as concentrated awareness, even if fleeting, towards a reduced number of stimuli in our environments whilst ignoring other stimuli. But, put simply, attention is a consumer's response to visual, auditory and biosensory stimuli that leads to varying degrees of either positive, negative or no engagement with the brand.
|Marketers should think of attention as a scarce resource, then an increased understanding of attention can fuel better client marketing strategies.|
Back in 2014, the MRC and IAB arrived at a common definition of viewability: at least 50% of an ad in view for minimum one second for display ads and two seconds for video ads.
Today, I think it's a commonly accepted that the definition of viewability is immutable. Essentially, it's based on number of pixels and time in view.
Whilst it did take some time for the industry to embrace and adopt the definition of viewability; the challenges attention faces are arguably greater with the additional complexity of varying data collection methods, e.g., eye-tracking, panel-based surveys, and crawler device metrics that use things like scroll speed.
Compounding this problem is the fact that attention measures created by companies operating in this space remain somewhat of a black box, and so standardization becomes impossible until there can be some agreement on a common approach, or at least a common framework for measurement. For now, I think the industry seems to be moving towards time as the key metric with attention seconds. But who's to say that it shouldn't be some other metrics, such as depth of attention, for example.
A lack of a clear attention definition and the set of standards doesn't seem to stop the industry's appetite to want to apply attention to help solve some of digital marketing's biggest problems, such as understanding the true value of an impression, and how media investment can be more cost efficient as well as deliver higher quality and at the same pursue cost efficiencies. Advertisers are seeking to be more effective in the way they shape their digital buys. This has led to a small but emerging trend in measurement partners creating trusted attentive marketplaces and things like that.
|A lack of a clear attention definition and the set of standards doesn't seem to stop the industry's appetite to want to apply attention to help solve some of digital marketing's biggest problems.|
These companies are essentially curating private marketplaces, PMPs and partnering with SSPs to enable buying against their attention metrics and inventory that scores highly against their attention algorithm.
Then there's the question of whether attention should be used as a trading currency, and the reality is, I think, that for attention to be effectively used as currency requires a common definition and set of standards, and it also requires marketers and the industry to scale the collection of data to move away from the classic opportunities to see (OTS) and opportunities to hear (OTH)-type models and shift to a trading model based on whether someone has seen the ad or not. That would be a revolution, for sure.
But harnessing the power to capture and retain attention, and in doing so optimize creative and media at scale remains the North Star, I think.
|It requires the industry to move away from the classic OTS and OTH-type models and shift to a trading model based on whether someone has seen the ad or not. That would be a revolution for sure.|
You touched a lot on how the industry is looking at attention measurement and metrics. Could you elaborate on how you think marketers involved in planning media and creative should be thinking about how they incorporate attention into their workflows?
We’ve been piloting attention measurement approaches and exploring ways to bring attention metrics into our planning and buying process on an ongoing basis. We evaluate and recommend partners that work best for clients, marketing objectives in ways that solve specific measurement gaps.
For instance, our global data intelligence practice helps clients build learning agendas, validate hypotheses, and develop a process to apply the learning and insight into planning and activation.
At the same time, we're starting to bring attention data into our proprietary tools and approaches from cross channel planning and optimization to brand safety and suitability.
We take an organic or bottom-up approach to devising use cases and bespoke to our clients. We use descriptive analysis to understand how attention differs by platform program day part audiences to inform planning. You know, our agency teams are already using attention to test the impact of media versus creative and identify which creative elements drive the greatest attention.
Correlation is another one. We correlate attention metrics with other measures, including both efficiency metrics like CPM and CPC or business KPIs like sales lift or brand lift.
|Layering over efficiency metrics helps the client understand if the inclusion of these metrics would drive down their costs due to better quality or increased CPMs|
Layering over efficiency metrics helps the client understand if the inclusion of these metrics would drive down their costs due to better quality or increased CPMs, you know better attention requiring more premium inventory. When brand lift studies are included, the results can be ranked in order to see if those who are exposed to higher attention media are more likely to recall or consider or intend to buy.
Thirdly, we do a lot of control experiments. For global markets or location-specific brands, these experiments provide ample insight into audience nuances and test our understanding of whether optimizing for attention generates better results than optimizing with existing methods. Finally, the inclusion of attention into a clients’ measurement framework helps make it one of the standard campaign KPIs and allows us to try and triangulate with outcome metrics. Bringing attention together with business outcomes is important.
What should marketers look for and ask of their attention vendors? And how should they kind of, you know, navigate this landscape when there's a lot of options.
We help our clients find the best solutions and conduct attention RFIs to identify the best partners that work for each market as specific challenges and learning objectives. We would consider things like, you know, media channel in focus, specific customer journey where the biggest opportunities exist, measurement gaps and other factors.
Each client’s needs are individually assessed to ensure we meet them their marketing and business objectives.
We have a program called verified and it's part of that process. We assess ad tech vendors. And specifically, in the area of attention we've been developing kind of, you know, a branch to that program if you like. What that allows us to do is assign all the attention vendors and companies operating in this space and effectively given the seal of approval and kind of rank them in terms of a school cart.
That allows us to ensure that we are providing our clients with the best and most up-to-date information on the marketplace and the ecosystem and kind of the varying methodologies and techniques.
In addition to kind of our vendor assessment program, we still advocate for consistent standards in the field of attention and support the work of industry and trade bodies like IAB and The Attention Council.
We need to find the right balance between theoretical definitions and practical use cases and anticipate that in the end it's the latter that will influence, if not determine, the former. While we believe transparency is the first step towards translation, I do want to call out a few areas of focus. Firstly, representation, i.e., where respondents are recruited either for panels or eye tracking, do they over index or under index in certain demographic groups?
Research shows that accuracy for attention tracking techniques is lower for people with darker skin colors. And panels have long struggled to fully represent multicultural population segments. We would like vendors who use these methodologies as part of their solutions, to demonstrate that their approaches have ways to minimize potential bias.
The second area is around data veracity and analytical rigor. What input variables do attention vendors use in their computation, and how willing are they to share those methodologies? One attention vendor recently undertook a PWC audit of their methodology and made the findings available to clients.
We encourage similar levels of transparency among ecosystem partners. And then, finally, transparency. This is key, especially given the buzz around things like AI and Ml. If AI is used, what specific modeling methods are deployed, how accurate are the models and how explainable is the output? Obviously, we support independent audits of methodologies. But there's definitely more that can be done here. What we try to do is we try to take leadership positions within the trade bodies to support this kind of level of transparency for our individual agencies and for marketers as well.
Final question, what best practice advice do you have for marketers who are at the beginning stages of their attention journey about to in embark upon it?
I’ve been hands-on in the attention space for the past couple of years and there's several different things I've learned along the way, Firstly, be clear on what you want to achieve, you know, start by creating the business case or strategy internally, for investing, defining an initial proof of concept and being clear on the objectives which could focus solely on attention for creative optimization or driving attention as part of your media strategy.
|Ask yourself two questions: What do you want to measure and what are the KPIs? And as you build up momentum from initial test, you might want to integrate attention testing as part of your annual planning.|
Ask yourself two quick questions: what do you want to measure and what are the KPIs? And as you build up momentum from initial test, you might want to integrate attention testing as part of your annual planning.
The route that you take, whether it be media or creative [or both], determines to some extent the partners that you would work with.
Secondly, executive sponsorship helps accelerate. As you create your plan for an attention program, you'll likely start with a business case and need to convince marketing or procurement that investments in measurement may be required to prove the effectiveness of investing in attention. So, having a key sponsor at the executive level, like the CMO, can really help to rally teams around a common goal.
Approaching attention testing as campaign measurement instead of a special data project will help to get buy in from stakeholders and allow more testing to be done. More testing means more data points and more evidence to begin to draw up your own brand-specific attention guidelines.
Finally, rely on your agencies to be able to provide you with that consult and that advice because they're actively making sure that the ecosystem and the landscape is appropriately vetted.
Anything else you wanted to add?
The space is moving really quickly. There is definitely appetite that we're seeing amongst marketers to want to test, which is key to drawing your own insights and building your own data and guidelines from the experiences that you create.
Fundamental to the establishment of attention as a key kind of marketing lever is the industry coalescing around a definition and a set of standards. Now I know there's been a lot of debate around that and whether or not we'll ever get to the definition. But I think back to the kind of early days of viewability. While it did take some time we got there.
As marketers start to think about building consistent learning and insights, they need to be able to focus on the campaign and the brand rather than like figuring out what the current vendors’ attention metrics look like compared to another.
Simplicity is key. But making sure that we as an industry get to a common set of standards and definitions is also important.