Attention Metrics Are More Important Than Ever

By Bill Duggan


ANA just ran a virtual conference dedicated to attention metrics. I learned so much — and want to share that learning.

Let's start with a quote from advertising legend Bill Bernbach, probably from 60 years ago: "If your advertising goes unnoticed, everything else is academic."

Fast forward to 2022 and Paolo Provinciali, head of paid media and strategy at LinkedIn, opined, "Attention is the most valuable resource in our industry today."

In 2022, there is now technology that helps measure attention — and there is a growing need to measure attention given the decline of identity and the importance of attribution.

According to Marc Guldimann, co-founder and CEO of Adelaide, the goal for attention metrics is to predict the probability of attention by any person to any creative inside of a media placement. Further, attention metrics have gone from testing/learning to scaled implementation.

The metrics reported were eye-opening:

  • Consumers spend five hours daily consuming media
  • Out of those five hours, 84 minutes are exposed to ads
  • Out of those 84 minutes, consumers are paying attention for only 9 minutes

In television, attention is measured via "eyes on screen." Is a person actually in the room — and are they looking at the TV screen?

In digital, attention consists of considerations including clutter, positioning, coverage/size of ad unit, duration, page velocity, audibility, and context. Digital was 64 percent of global ad spend in 2021 (up from 61 percent in 2020 and 52 percent in 2019), according to one of the presenters. So, it's obvious why the industry is looking at attention metrics here.

Attention metrics are both a media and creative tool. According to research from the ARF, 37 percent would use attention metrics for planning, 56 percent for media optimization, and 75 percent for measuring ad effectiveness. The ARF called attention metrics "firmly established" for creative testing. That makes sense, given that industry research shows that two-thirds of campaign effectiveness is driven by creative.

There was the perspective that high attention ads are more effective, especially in the lower funnel, and are more likely to drive outcomes. It was also said that attention predicts outcomes/success three times better than viewability.

Generally, people aren't ready to replace current metrics with attention metrics — but will augment current metrics with attention metrics.

And now some miscellaneous fun facts from our expert speakers:

  • Shorter ads have a greater percentage of high attention. For a 15-second commercial, average attention is 50 percent (so 7.5 seconds); for a 30-second commercial, average attention is 30 percent (9 seconds). Therefore, advertisers might consider greater use of shorter ads (which are also less expensive).
  • Live events, such as sports and award shows, drive more attention. And there is a correlation between the attention paid to programming and attention paid to advertising in that programming.
  • Brand building ads typically have higher attention than performance marketers or direct response. Yet attention metrics are being used by all types of advertisers.
  • Ads in linear television have slightly more attention (4 percent more) than ads in CTV. That was a surprise to me. It was hypothesized that consumers are more use to ads in linear while CTV has more emerging/changing ad formats.
  • Ad formats with calls to action drive higher attention. Also, ads with brand presence throughout (more time on screen) have higher attention.
  • There were various discussions on programmatic. One speaker called programmatic, "probably the most exciting area" for attention metrics because of the ability to automate and the opportunity to use attention metrics at a much broader scale than they have been to date. On the other hand, another speaker talked about context having an impact on attention. Moreover, programmatic buying focuses on audiences and not context.
  • The top barrier among the buy side for greater use of attention metrics is the perception that they can be difficult to deploy (per the ARF).

Some opportunities for follow-up:

  • Paul Donato of the ARF was asked, "Is there a common definition of attention?" He responded saying "no," and felt that this is likely one of the bigger issues in the industry. Thus, some future collaboration between the industry and ARF would be of value.
  • Should the Media Rating Council (MRC) have a role in auditing attention metric suppliers? While it is likely too soon for that given that this industry is still emerging, as spending continues to increase, this will become more important.

It's good news for the attention industry that 65 percent of the buy side wants to learn more (per the ARF). And speakers used terms such as "super promising" and "must explore" when discussing attention metrics.

Thanks to Adelaide for partnering with ANA to present the event. And thanks to the terrific line-up of speakers, who deserve the credit for sharing the above. They are listed in order of appearance here:

  • Marc Guldimann, co-founder and CEO, Adelaide
  • Stephen Jepson, EVP, advertising effectiveness, DISQO
  • Benjamin Lowe, analytics director, Adelaide
  • Vidyotham Reddi, director of growth analytics, Mars
  • Paul Donato, chief research officer, Advertising Research Foundation
  • Michael Perlman, chief revenue officer, TVision Insights
  • Paolo Provinciali, head of paid media strategy and operations, LinkedIn
  • Edo Briola, global brand director, Dove masterbrand and strategy, Unilever
  • Neala Brown, VP, insights, Teads

Presentations from the conference are now available here. Videos will soon follow.


The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.