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Where Does Attention Lead? Why You Need to Link Attention Measurement to Outcomes

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Everyone in the advertising industry is paying attention to, well, attention. From the 4As to I-COM to the ARF, with both historic advertising associations and upstarts, attention is one of the most discussed topics in marketing today.

This growing buzz around the attention ecosystem provides a welcome distraction from the concerns about how the uncertain economy will affect ad budgets. It’s for good reason: many believe it is a salve for an industry that is laser-focused on demonstrating value to clients. Numerous companies now provide attention measurement for creative, media, and everything in between.

For years, viewability has been the dominant baseline metric for organizations and their agencies to ensure they “got what they paid for.” The reason for that is simple: if an ad doesn’t show up on a screen or isn’t viewable, then it has no ability to impact. But, viewability has always been an imperfect metric. It doesn’t actually determine whether an ad was viewed or not; merely whether it was possible to view the ad.

It makes sense that everyone is looking for something more tangible and powerful than viewability. And attention is definitively a quantum leap forward in that regard.

But what is that attention worth? Where does attention lead? A lack of standardization certainly complicates any definitive suggestion there. Right now, each of these companies are using different metric names, definitions, and algorithms to determine the level of attention. It likely will be a while until any standards are defined, given the stakes of winning “the war on attention.” 

So, where does that leave us?

No matter what happens with attention standardization, attention is still unlikely to be the ultimate goal for any advertiser. The goal for any brand and its agencies is, as always, to demonstrate that an ad drove definitive outcomes–be that brand, behavior or business.

If a brand mistakenly includes a controversial image or scene in its ad, consumers will seek it out - and any tracker would demonstrate the ad received a ton of attention. But is that good attention, and will it lead to positive outcomes?

While a necessary and prevalent "pivotal indicator" of campaign success, as DoubleVerify recently said at CES, attention is not the end metric in and of itself.  Rather it's a helpful stepping stone to tangible outcomes:


  • Brand Outcomes: Shaping attitudes and intentions and generating demand.
  • Behavior Outcomes: Influencing actions and engagements.
  • Business Outcomes: Fostering financial events and customer loyalty.


In our conversations with marketers, they are understandably excited about the prospect of attention measurement but want to better understand how the new field of attention fits into their years of well-defined and benchmarked metrics like brand lift and return-on-ad-spend (ROAS).

Therefore there is a huge need for interoperability across different metrics systems.

Fortunately, attention measurement providers are being proactive, and understand the importance of combining their metrics with outcomes measurement. For instance, we’ve partnered with companies like TVision to combine its second-by-second TV attention measurement with our brand analytics, and Teads has partnered with Adelaide and Realeyes to create the Attention Program.

The good news is this is feasible thanks to the proliferation of ID systems that make comparisons possible. And while it’s still early days, it still takes some serious data science expertise to crack the code. Initial studies tying attention to outcomes have been promising.

In the study done in tandem with TVision, we found there’s a one-to-one correlation between TV viewer attention and brand lift. For every percentage point increase in viewer attention to high-frequency ads, there is close to a 1% corresponding lift in aided awareness. We’ve also found a correlation between attention and ad recall. But, of course, the impact varies by campaign, hence the need for an always-on link from attention to outcomes.

Despite these positive signals, there are no shortcuts when you must know if your creative direction and your media strategy are actually impacting outcomes. In order to tie attention metrics to brand outcomes, every campaign must measure brand lift in addition to attention.

All the attention in the world isn’t enough if the consumers viewing your ads aren’t gaining favorable opinions about you or your clients’ brands, deciding to make a purchase, or recommending the product to their peers. That’s a reality to which you should pay attention.

[Editor's note: This is a contributed article from Upwave. Streaming Media accepts vendor bylines based solely on their value to our readers.]

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