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Are Viewers Paying Attention? AOL Creates a Distraction Metric

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One difficulty for any type of video advertising, whether broadcast or online, is that there's no way to know if viewers are actually paying attention to the ads themselves. Viewers might talk to family members, check their phone, run to the kitchen, or any of a thousand other distractions. To measure attention (or the lack of it) AOL worked with the researchers at Nielsen to study distraction in a variety of settings. It then created a presentation highlighting the results, which it shared with StreamingMedia.com.

After studying TV and online viewing in respondents' homes, and conducting thousands of online and in-person interviews (with ethographic research conducted by Bovitz), Nielsen was able to calculate averages of how much viewers on different platforms were distracted, and how much this distraction impacted advertiser recall and purchasing decisions. It used this data to create a metric that calculates attention (shown below).

From all this data, AOL and Nielsen show how ad placements compare on different platforms. For example, 100 ad impressions on short-form online video (where attention is stronger) is equal to 117 impressions on primetime TV (where viewers are more distracted). In homes that use DVRs to skip ads, 100 short-form online video impressions are equal to 180 primetime TV impressions. While the study was created, of course, to entice advertisers to put their money online, it's an interesting look at where viewer attention is the strongest and where it's the most distracted.

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