The Tremendous Opportunity in Attention Measurement
Ethan Rapp just wrapped up a 10-month project at the ARF where he was responsible for cataloguing the full suite of attention providers. He shared what he learned in his research, what lessons attention measurement can learn from the rush to embrace viewability and why the importance of creative makes media measurement that much harder.
Why is attention important?
Attention is probably the hottest topic in marketing, but it is an important question about why now, and I think it's sort of the confluence of three different things.
We've always wanted better metrics but with the fragmentation of media and TV and stuff like that, there's never been any basis for relative pricing for media, e.g., what the cost is of a YouTube ad versus a Facebook ad versus a Hulu ad. There's never really been a rhyme or reason to it.
|The opportunity has really come about fast and furious with the fragmentation of currencies.
The second thing is innovation. We've got a lot of new technology that includes things like facial coding, computer vision, and eye tracking. And, maybe most importantly, artificial intelligence.
Now, combine that with the third thing, which is opportunity. The opportunity has really come about fast and furious with the fragmentation of currencies. The sell side saying they're going to accept multiple currencies has created a stampede to look for replacements and additions. The confluence of this motivation for better quality metrics, the innovation that's come along to support that and the opportunity just given to recent changes with currencies has created a huge flurry of activity.
You just wrapped up a project with the ARF where you created a landscape of attention suppliers. What were your personal takeaways regarding the state of the market? And what did you learn, and what should people know?
The short answer to that is there is a fair amount of chaos right now, but an enormous opportunity. To dig a little deeper into that, we spoke to over 20 companies who raised their hands to say that they're in the attention metrics supply business. And we got 20 different definitions of attention, 20 different methodologies, and so on.
From my perspective you need to chunk those up a little bit, and the obvious ways are looking at companies that are measuring creative versus companies that are measuring media. There are companies that are based on academic philosophy about attention as a human measure. Then there are companies that are based solely on defining attention by the outcomes, right? Using digital signals and things like that. I think the creative versus the media is the most interesting [discussion].
|...technology has really advanced to the point now where you can put this stuff out of the laboratory and into the wild, which is terrific.
Creative has been around for a long time from dial testing to copy testing things like that. But technology has really advanced to the point now where you can put this stuff out of the laboratory and into the wild, which is terrific. It’s not that the laboratory has lost its value at all.
But it's certainly expanded things. Media probably has the opportunity to have the biggest impact on the market by having the ability to have price clearance and price recognition based on the predicted quality of media and the keyword.
In my view, it's very hard to measure the quality of media because creative is so influential; it has 70% to 80% of the impact of an ad, [according to some people]. it's hard to tease that out. The media component of this is looking at all of the different components of the media opportunity.
Using technology, whether it be AI or linking things to outcomes to comparing different media opportunities to each other and try to optimize a single buy.
There will be huge consolidation. And let's mark the day. Today is July 11. Things will be different on July 12 [and so on]. But there is a tremendous amount of activity, a tremendous amount of different approaches and different definitions, which is probably a little disconcerting for some of the buy side.
Obviously, there are some brands and agencies that have been harnessing attention since day zero. What would be your advice to those trying to figure out to attention or utilize it in their marketing efforts for the first time now?
|...you just really have to go right now with what fits best for you. And there is not one perfect answer.
The definition right now of attention is measures of quality at different parts of the marketing supply chain: efficiency and media spend. Talk to the variety of companies that offer those services and test them against each other and look at outcomes. If it's creative that you're looking at, you've got a host of companies that do that.
But ask yourself what fits into your goals and what fits into your existing set of metrics. You don't want something that's completely incompatible. And some companies are offering currencies that go into programmatic. Some companies are offering outcomes that are based on attitudes. And you just really have to go right now with what fits best for you. And there is not one perfect answer.
The [buy-side] companies that are going to win are those that try out a lot of these and ultimately figure out works for them.
|There is a lot of pressure for standards, but they should come from opportunity, not from need.
Anything else you want to add before we go?
There is a lot of pressure for standards, but they should come from opportunity, not from need. We saw what happened with viewability - it went to the lowest common denominator, because everyone said, “Well, we need a standard.” Need doesn't always translate into success. I applaud all of the efforts to try to create a single metric for attention, but I would be very careful about what you create at the end of that.