The attention economy: A new chapter for media quality and creative effectiveness
Brands should focus on optimising attention, not viewability, to improve the impact and effectiveness of their online advertising.
There has probably never been more discussion and debate about the right ways to measure marketing effectiveness than there is today. If marketers can agree on one thing, however, it is that there must be a way to quantify the basic value and quality of the ad impressions a brand buys.
In this respect, almost every week a new proof point comes to light that moves the industry towards attention and away from viewability.
Dentsu’s ‘Attention Economy’ study is the latest landmark on this journey. The research has demonstrated that attention predicts outcomes three times better than viewability.
Smaller and smaller ads have been crammed onto web pages, and more and more clutter is competing for the consumer’s eyeballs.
This is a critical step for our industry, as viewability has been the standard way to qualify impressions for the last 15 years. But while providing brands with a minimum benchmark to determine what exposure they should pay for, it has also led to a race to the bottom. Smaller and smaller ads have been crammed onto web pages, and more and more clutter is competing for the consumer’s eyeballs.
Given that the size of an ad is proven to be correlated to the level of attention it earns, the pre-eminence of viewability as a verification measure is actively diminishing the effectiveness of brands’ advertising.
Quantity and quality of attention
The ‘Attention Economy’ study reveals that attention itself can be measured in two dimensions: quantity, which relates to the volume of attention, measured in seconds; and quality, which is linked to the nature of the attention.
In terms of quantity of attention, we need to make a distinction between content that users engage with, and that which just happens to be on a page that they are looking at. For example, on a publisher’s website where a user is actively reading an article, the opportunity for the ads to be viewed is higher than in a social media environment where users are mindlessly and endlessly scrolling, without necessarily engaging with anything.
The nature of attention also matters: attention that is earned is much more powerful at yielding results than attention that is forced. Thus an ad you choose to view, such as an inRead video, is more effective than one you can’t avoid, such as an unskippable pre-roll.
Beyond media variables, the ‘Attention Economy’ study also confirms that creative is a key driver of branding impact.
This is an area where we have invested a lot with our Teads Studio team over the last three years, testing and learning how to optimise ads using attention and emotional metrics from our research partner, Realeyes. Teads research in 2020 established a relationship quantifying how basic optimisations improve attention and how this drives the outcome of brand lift.
We found that simple optimisations lead to 18.5% higher ad awareness on average (but in some cases, much higher), and that 5% more attention volume leads to a 40% increase in in-market ad awareness. Our findings clearly demonstrate how even simple improvements to ad creative can make a significant impact for brand advertisers.
The importance of creative optimisation as a lever of creative effectiveness has been confirmed by the results of the A/B test we conducted as part of the ‘Attention Economy’ study – between ads in their original version and a studio-optimised version. Optimised ads drove on average 49% higher attention than the originals.
Align with contextual content
The final frontier of attention is the relevance of the ads for the users. Our brains are programmed to pay more attention to information that we are predisposed to find interesting. For example, if I liked a Nike ad in the past or if I’m in market for a pair or running shoes, I’m more likely to pay attention to another Nike ad. It also follows that ads with contextual relevance to the content they appear with earn greater attention and recall.
We can see this happening in live campaigns. IAS conducted a study with Neuroinsights in the US that demonstrated 23% more detail memory and 27% more global memory for ads that were aligned with the contextual content, compared with those that were not. We have also observed superior branding impact for ads that are contextually aligned.
All these insights should be opening our eyes to the steps we have to take to achieve better-quality media and improved creative effectiveness. At Teads we feel very passionate about this topic and are eager to contribute to the progress of the research in the field of attention. We also intend to make attention measurement actionable in its creative and media dimensions, at all the stages of the planning and buying process.
Caroline Hugonenc is global VP of research and insights at Teads