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The attention economy is not a new concept, it dates to the 1950’s and is built on the core premise that a human has a finite amount of attention.  As we think about the modern media ecosystem and the plethora of media choice for a consumer, it is easy to see why the concept remains relevant today.

Technology is rapidly changing the way in which consumers access content and the associated advertising. It is also creating new ways to measure media and advertising. The widespread availability of camera technology within cell phones, computers and tablets has allowed more scalable use of eye tracking solutions.

The use of eye-tracking to determine whether an ad is actually seen, as opposed to an opportunity to see (OTS) is a major advance in the way we measure audiences. For digital it takes us from was the ad viewable, to was it viewed and if so for how long. There is also a way to create the same for TV and other visual media.

The duration of attention is the other core attention metric for assessing a consumer’s engagement with an ad or a piece of content. One of the questions often asked is how much attention is required for an ad to work effectively? The answer is that it depends largely on the objective of the advertiser and the messaging they wish to use. Generally speaking, a longer ad requires more attention to get a complex message through to a consumer whereas on some occasions an ad might just be a short branding reminder and can do its job with a lower volume of attention.

The underlying reason why attention is being used by media planners and buyers is that it is a key driver and correlates strongly with all the so-called funnel metrics, from driving brand lift, through to sales lift. There are numerous case studies that can be viewed here:

Is the measurement of attention perfect? The answer of course is that no measurement approach is perfect. As more media expenditure is being traded on attention metrics, then understandably advertisers are seeking greater levels of assurance as to the quality of the metrics. There are several initiatives underway, most notably from the Advertising Research Foundation to create a more standardised approach to attention measurement.

It is therefore not a surprise that all major media buying companies and a growing number of media sellers are beginning to use attention metrics in their planning.

It is important to note that as with other types of research, there are several methods of measuring attention. These include neuroscience, facial coding, galvanic skin response, heart monitoring as well as survey methods. In addition, it is worth pointing out that some of the ad verification companies are using computer heuristics to create a measure of attention. The method selected will vary dependent on the use case of a client.

In summary, attention metrics, whilst more work is required to is being undertaken to understand from an experimental design perspective to create an industry standard, they are being used across the media industry (and multiple geographic markets) for providing greater insight into how media and creative assets are performing.

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