The primary objective of any campaign is to elicit a reaction. It could drive traffic to a website, boost sales or raise brand awareness. But none of that is possible if the audience isn’t actually absorbing the pertinent information – ie they’re not paying attention to your ad – which effectively means budget is being wasted.
What is attention and why should you care?
Attention is a precious commodity in advertising. Without it, brands get ignored, and products and services go unsold. Getting ‘eyes on the prize’ is vital for brands, as there is a proven relationship between attention, short- and long-term brand performance, and mental availability – in other words, when a customer thinks of a brand while considering a purchase.
But what is attention? It’s essentially the idea that a person stops what they’re doing, even if for a fleeting moment, and pays concentrated awareness to one thing, filtering out all distractions to learn something. While the theory is sound, achieving that in advertising can be challenging. But without attention, no impact can be gained, and there’s no mental availability or short- or long-term memory across any part of the sales funnel.
In addition, attention plays another critical role in advertising. The UK ad market is evolving – providing exciting opportunities for brands, but also challenges in navigating an increasingly complex ecosystem, particularly around measurement. Think about how hard it is to measure who is viewing what across all the different channels available for a media plan. We can’t say that reach on one channel is equal to reach on another channel – in terms of its impact – because it’s consumed so differently.
This means that measuring the effectiveness of a campaign through more common metrics, such as reach, frequency or impressions, doesn’t tell the full story anymore. We need a quality metric that can be applied across all impressions on a like-for-like basis, such as attention.
Taking a new approach to attention
To find out more about the value that attention can deliver for advertising across campaign activation and measurement, Finecast commissioned Amplified Intelligence to assess audience attention levels in the UK, focusing on TV content. To accurately measure it, the research team first divided attention into three categories – active attention (looking directly at the TV screen), passive attention (in the room but not watching the TV) and non-attention (the TV is on, but the viewer isn’t in the room).
The study included using eye-tracking technology to collect attention data from 250 households, who watched 7,503 OTT and linear TV ads from 18 brands (across auto, banking and insurance, fashion and retail, FMCG, food and beverage, gambling, technology, and travel) to ensure a broad range of content and ads, gaining a more accurate measure of attention levels.
The findings show that, contrary to popular belief, the creative is not the most prominent driver of attention. Instead, the platform drives the most significant impact on the attention paid to the ad, with relevance to the audience and the creative itself increasing the number of seconds viewers watch for.
The importance of platform
It has long been the accepted viewpoint that TV was the place to go to secure broad reach and game-changing creative. And, as addressable TV advertising has gone from strength to strength, it’s now possible to marry that power of TV with the insights that data can bring to drive relevance and engagement with audiences.
The research backs up this view, demonstrating that, unlike online platforms where longer ads don’t garner more attention, ads on TV increase and maintain attention as the length increases – giving more time to communicate complex messages. In fact, a typical 60-second ad on OTT averages slightly more active attention than a 30-second ad.
TV also drives consistent attention toward advertising. The research found that the proportion of people watching the last second of a TV ad is almost the same as those watching the first second. For context, although 48% of people actively watch the first second of ads on scrollable, non-TV video formats, this drops to 24% by 15 seconds and almost zero by 30 seconds.
For OTT, the cherry on top is that viewers pay approximately 20% more active attention per second to OTT ads than linear ads. The gap between attention to programming and attention to ads also does not widen over time on OTT, making OTT ad viewing more stable than linear.
Don’t discount creative
Despite the findings showing the efficacy of platform, that does not mean the quality of the creative can drop. The research shows that the relevance of the creative impacts how successfully an ad can gain active attention with viewers, with the results confirming that the more relevant the ad creative is to the audience, the more likely it is to achieve active attention from viewers. It means that knowing and understanding the audience is critical to a successful campaign, which is possible through the power of addressable TV advertising.
The new attention metric
At Finecast, we believe in the power of TV, but attention is a metric that can be adapted to all forms of marketing. For brand marketers, these findings demonstrate that attention is the metric they need to be mindful of, and which they should call on their partners to focus on as the measure of success.
As an industry, we need to come together to create a consistent way of measuring and applying attention metrics that can accurately establish the effectiveness of an ad as part of a holistic campaign.