Thoughts & Opinions 

Why you’ll be seeing the term ‘attention-based advertising’ a lot in 2022

Playground xyz
August 26, 2021

The shift towards attention-based advertising is gaining pace. Here are a few reasons why you’ll be hearing the term a lot more throughout the remainder of this year and into 2022.

Sea changes in media and advertising seem to come around every five years, or so. The shift towards mobile advertising, the rapid adoption of programmatic buying and the installation of Viewability as a key metric are all recent examples.

With the evolution of existing technologies and the introduction of new ones happening every day – and not just in media terms – it’s understandable that a whole host of new approaches are being coined as ‘the next big shift in digital advertising’ by various stakeholders.

And yes, as leaders in the field there can be no denying that we’re biased, but here’s are just a few reasons why we’re confident attention-based advertising really is the next big paradigm shift for the media industry.

The industry has been crying out for an effectiveness metric

Existing standard metrics – CTR, CPA, Viewability etc. – are standard for a reason: they’re obviously important factors to have visibility on when running digital ad campaigns. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the best measures of ad effectiveness.

Viewability tells us whether half of our ads made it into the viewport for one continuous second, and Click-Through Rate informs us of the (quite frankly) tiny percentage of people that wanted to take action right then and there. One lets us know whether an ad had the opportunity to be seen, and the other tells us how many users, out of potentially millions exposed, had the time and inclination to move from consideration of the message to taking action.

Do either of these indicate how effective the ad was, really? Short of running brand studies alongside every single campaign – unrealistic for even the most well funded and resourced advertisers – there hasn’t been a truly effective measure of ad effectiveness.

This is where attention metrics come into their own, bridging the gap between existing metrics and brand studies. By understanding which ads are actually looked at, and for how long, advertisers can track the impact attention is having on their campaign performance and key brand outcomes, and optimise towards those insights.

Our own attention metric, Attention Time, is defined as the length of time, in seconds, the ad was actually looked at. Because it captures the consumer’s interest in the ad, it triggers a hugely powerful feedback loop on ad relevance and resonance.

It’s a next-generation, quality-based metric that measures the true effectiveness of brand advertising.

Agencies and brands are testing it, if not adopting it already

Whilst not necessarily mainstream just yet, attention is already a hot topic within digital advertising. And, whether it’s through ourselves or other providers of attention-based solutions, the world’s biggest brands are already testing its effectiveness, or have outright adopted it already.

The big agencies and holding companies are beginning to make noises around their own focuses on attention technologies, with Dentsu’s Attention Economy studies being a prime example. Providers of attention solutions are also being appointed as attention partners; our own partnerships with leading holding groups and agencies among the first in the UK.

When big agencies and brands begin the move from testing to implementation, you can be pretty sure the industry as a whole will follow.

It can “replace” cookies

You will have heard, we’re sure, but it’s worth saying again: third-party cookies are dying.

Consumers have made their views clear: they don’t want to be tracked across the internet, and this presents issues for both advertisers and publishers.  As third party cookies are increasingly deprecated, advertisers are searching for the most effective alternative to reach their audiences, and niche publishers are concerned their ad revenues will drop if their content isn’t deemed popular/relevant enough to feature in contextually targeted campaigns.

Contextual approaches do seem to be the agreed best replacement for cookies but a lot of advertisers are still “guesstimating” when it comes to selecting the best contextual categories to serve their campaigns. These approximations are not the brands’ fault – firstly it’s impossible to predict all the keywords and categories which might suit the campaign, and secondly, there’s no real ‘feedback loop’ to identify exactly what’s working whilst the campaign is running.

We agree that contextual approaches and optimising campaigns not to individuals, but instead to groups of consumers is the future of digital advertising, but we also think attention will play a key role…

By measuring attention time across a campaign as it’s delivered, we can identify which contexts, site and pages are reaching the most attentive and engaged audiences, and then optimise delivery to that inventory in real-time. By starting off delivering across broad contextual categories and then letting the results steer optimisation, we not only deliver the best possible results for the client but avoid any assumption or guessing as to which contexts are best, and therefore avoid any scalability issues from over-zealous niche targeting.

It’s an approach we’ve been running with blue-chip advertisers since early 2021 and the results have been overwhelmingly positive, with some campaigns seeing 30-50% increases across core KPIs, including Attention Time itself.

We’ve now built this out into a fully-fledged product: Attention Optimised Contexts.

It’s fundamentally what advertising is all about

The birth of attention-based advertising and the recognition it’s receiving from agencies and brands has certainly highlighted attention as a topic, but we shouldn’t forget a fundamental fact:

Attention is what advertising is all about.

Capturing consumer attention is what every advertiser is looking to do. Whilst attention has only been measured in eye-tracking studies and research projects up until now, the latest attention metrics have allowed it to become measurable at scale and without infringing on user privacy.

If attention is what advertisers seek, attention is what they should measure.

And that’s why you’ll be hearing and reading about attention-based advertising a lot more in 2022 and beyond.