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Why Attention Trumps Viewability

The 1970s Nobel Prize winning economist, Herbert Simon coined the term “Attention Economy” saying: “What information consumes is the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention”. This term remains relevant some 50 years later, with dentsu leading the charge to understand of the true impact of attention.  

Dentsu has undertaken ground-breaking research that is currently in two parts. The first phase of research sought to ‘define a new value system and ultimately challenge the way the industry trades, by valuing what is likely to be ‘delivered’, over what is ‘bought’.’   

Using sophisticated eye tracking technology and research panels, dentsu analysed 17,000 individual video ad exposures across linear TV, and in-feed video on social media and pre-roll on video platforms. The research emphasised that ‘attention is a scarce resource’ with only 1/3 of ads receiving an audience’s full attention. Often consumers skip ads, and when they cannot skip they look away. Vitally, effectiveness is highly linked to how much of an ad is viewable and for how long.  

The most recent update to the studies, saw dentsu set up large scale eye-tracking panels with Lumen Research, TVision, and audience measurement company Amplified Intelligence, to build a proprietary attention model. The aim was to capture what drives attention, as well as gain an understanding of the effectiveness of attention across platforms, channels and format.   

The results showed several interesting insights: 

1. Viewability is not sufficient to measure true attention. Often, while an ad may be viewable, this does not mean that it receives attention. It is critical to evolve beyond viewability and measure attention better to get to a more genuine exposure vs. an optimistic one.  

2. Creative is vital in driving attention, with strong vs poor performing creative delivering the largest shift in outcomes.  

3. Duration is correlated with higher levels of attention. However shorter length video ads can be more efficient by delivering results in a shorter amount of time.  

4. The impact of sound varies; it is dependent on whether the consumer expects it to be part of the platform experience.  

Measurement and testing in attention continues across global markets., Australian Digital outdoor company QMS, announced it had joined forces with, Amplified Intelligence, to conduct an out of home attention study in the Gold Coast. From a technical perspective, the measurement model worked through privacy-compliant face tracking technologies installed on digital OOH properties to determine whether a person was looking at an ad. Additionally, the research also used ‘pose tracking’ which is a brand-new technology that can detect whether the viewer is a dog or a human. Interestingly, the pilot study showed that face and pose points can be leveraged to measure active over passive attention, a breakthrough in understanding the impact on brand metrics.