'Attention Can Become A Currency'

So proclaimed iSpot.TV’s George Castrissiades during the Advertising Research Foundation’s (ARF) “Attention 2023” Summit Wednesday at Fordham University in New York City.  The event provided extensive insights on attention metrics, definitions, derivations, and measurement techniques and values that the industry will need to assess in the ongoing TV/video “currency wars.”  

Key questions were raised that the ARF will attempt to address as part of its “Attention Measurement Validation Initiative,” including assessing various attention metric vendor offerings for both creative and media. 

Can attention metrics be applied successfully and fairly by marketers?  What are the valid definitions of attention? What campaign dimension must be considered in any attention metric for any campaign? For example, media type, creative, device, audience, context, environment, duration, media-creative synergies, etc., plus their various interactions?  How should attention be measured?  



The ARF plans to provide an “Attention Vendor Atlas,” the first phase of which will be released in July, covering 23 companies responding to its request for information (including validation studies).

A constant theme by virtually all the presenters throughout their technical reviews was the fundamental importance of persons-based measurement.  It is considered essential – whether to confirm actual presence in the viewability or audible zone – relative to the device, page, panel, or screen; or, to measure the “really valuable” levels of people’s actual attention.  

In what I take to be a nod to out-of-home’s measurement standard for the last 20 years, one way of measuring attention is via “eyes/ears-on” techniques, such as those utilized by TVision.  

A strong emphasis was placed on more meaningful metrics to reflect media quality and replace the “easily gamed” and extremely weak media value proxy of “viewable impressions” used by some media platforms.  

Referencing viewable impressions as, “The lowest possible measure of media value,” Adelaide’s Marc Guldimann should be applauded for nailing media metric nonsense that has no person’s dimension whatsoever in its measurement, which are based on Media Rating Council standards.  

Castrissiades’ talk was entitled, “Why Persons-Level Measurement is Critical,” which further underlined the fundamental weakness in the use of viewable impressions, as well as household data for media planning, buying, and selling media. 

Continuing the potential value and relevance of attention as a currency to advertisers and programmers/publishers, the University of Delaware’s Matthew McGranaghan, asserted, “Attention is the currency that clears the market” when considering the interplay between advertisers, the media, and the consumer.  

Media Science’s Duane Varan said it was important to understand “distractions,” such as multi-tasking, clutter, environment, or co-viewing, something that is expected to be addressed by a “Distraction Consortium,” which will provide insights into how “attention” erodes over time due to various distractions.  This in turn will produce clues as to how to understand and remedy distractions.

Varan also addressed the U.S.’ so called “JIC” farrago. “Viewability (which is consistently being confused with eyes/ears-on) is being gamed, he said, calling for “The value of a single common currency.  Or it’s chaos!”  

Ultimately, attention-based metrics surely will help prove  comparable media value data for full cross-media measurement that includes the print, radio, and out-of-home media.  

Clearly, the creative brand message needs to be aligned with the target audience, the media vehicle, its environment, and context.  Attention metrics will help us do that much better with both the creative and media executions albeit undoubtedly with higher CPM’s but relatively much better ROAS (return on advertising spending).  

However, CPM (cost-per-thousands) has always stood for “Completely Positively Mad” when based on viewable impressions, so another major advance for the industry.

3 comments about "'Attention Can Become A Currency'".
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  1. John Grono from GAP Research, June 9, 2023 at midnight

    A good post Tony.

    Should “Why Persons-Level Measurement is Critical” be THAT critical, then marketers should go and set-it up.

    Of of course their competitors shouldn't have access, so as to retain the marketing advantage.   Oh, and don't forget every category is different.   And that each brand in each category differs.  Oops, I forgot to mention that region to region will be difference as well, let alone country by country.   It will cost them a pretty-penny.

    So they should feel to free to become a Star Trekker and boldy go where no marketer has gone before.

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, June 9, 2023 at 7:37 a.m.

    Totally agree, Tony---as you knew I would.

    However, attentiveness will not become the integral  part of a standard TV/CTV "audience" measurement service until the sellers---who dread the resulting much smaller numbers----will permit it as they do most of the funding and, hence, control the process. Sadly, there is little pressure on the sellers to allow attentiveness to be added to Nielsen's new. "big data" TV/CTV rating service----and advertisiers, who will be the big losers when the sellers have their way, are largely mute on the subject and unwilling to spend even a dime, let alone time and effort to make it happen.

    Consequently, attentiveness will be "certified" by the "JIC" committee but only used from time to time  by individual sellers who feel it can serve as a useful sales promotion ploy as an add-on "currency" to Nielsen's "impressions" ----with the latter being the single stabndard that all sellers and buyers use---barring a monumental screw up by Nielsen, which I don't anticipate. Sigh!

  3. andy brown from Consultant replied, June 11, 2023 at 11:37 a.m.

    Firstly thanks Tony for the round up. I also tend to agree with Ed's point about the reduction in aduience that moving from broad opportunity to see, to a probabliistic calculation of whether and ad was seen is a marketing challenge for the attention metric. (I have been a media researcher to know that cheaper solutions that deliver higher audiences oftern win out e.g. recent reading v through the book in print). We are living in a world where measurement is like jigsaw puzzle and greater levels of modularity and optionality in planning and trading. In TV planning as Ed suggests, I see attention being a jigsaw piece that is selected and added to to others e.g. TV meter panel and 1st party data, when trying to support CTV premium pricing. Also with TV attribution, when trying to explain the link between exposure and outcomes. However perhaps the biggest use of attention could be in cross screen measurment (ie. as a lens through which to view "TV" and "digital video" (e.g. YouTube). viewing probabilities...btw generally TV scores well for attention v digital video on the data produced thus far.

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