Creative Ways Brands Can Gain More Attention

By Tim Jones

Lacoste and other brands with product placements in Season 4 of Stranger Things earned $27 million in brand value according to a YouGov study. If that doesn't count as audience attention, then I don't know what does. Yet, many digital advertisers don't think about it that way yet.

Attention is the hot new metric for many digital advertisers as they look to connect in a cluttered media landscape. There are a lot of benefits to measuring the time that someone must actually look at or engage with an ad. But, there is also a big benefit to defining attention in a way that includes all touchpoints with audiences, not just typical TV spots and display ads. Product placement, earned mentions, and created content are all critical to the overall attention that an audience pays to a brand.

Attention: Viewability 2.0?

Believe it or not, viewability is nearly a decade old. The Media Ratings Council put out their official viewability standards in 2014 after a year or two of debate where many bad actors tried to game the metric. Their rule of 50 percent in view for a second or two is still the industry standard, although some agencies have long asked for 100 percent viewability.

It's somewhat incredible to think that our industry set the bar so low back then. To think that before 2014, most ads couldn't meet this standard! We've come a long way. Attention is a smart new standard that takes viewability to the next level.

There are skeptics out there that aren't sold on attention metrics. However, its value needs to be put in context. Attention is not a replacement for conversion or attribution measurement. Rather, it is a richer measure of the time that a person has to see and engage with an ad. If viewability can hold up for 10 years with such low expectations, surely, we can accept the idea of adding a new dimension of "time" to this equation.

Another concern with attention is that brands will become so focused on increasing overall attention with their audience that they loosen their frequency. Already, viewers of CTV are complaining that ads are too repetitive. It's important for brands to balance attention with other important measures not only of campaign performance, but of user experience.

The Role of Content

Adding a measurement of exposure time to viewability metrics (i.e., attention) also encourages publishers to create more engaging content, a fantastic side effect. A study by Chartbeat notes that "users with 15 or more seconds of active exposure time to an ad had 25 percent higher brand recall than those reading for 10 or less."

Chartbeat also makes the important point that editorial plays a critical role when it comes to improving attention metrics. In fact, the content itself is usually the most engaging part of the media experience. For brands that value attention, content is the place to focus.

This can explain the surge in B2C content marketing that has occurred since the start of the pandemic. A 2021 study found that 81 percent of B2C marketers thought that their content marketing was at least moderately successful, with more than a quarter saying that it was "extremely or very successful." These marketers focused on short articles and videos, mainly for social media. In other words, brands want to become part of the content experience, not just support it with advertising.

Another opportunity that's growing in importance is in-content advertising and product placement. While Stranger Things highlights the role of traditional product placement, where contracts are signed pre-production and woven into the storyline, there are more scalable and more affordable options. Digital product placement enables brands to be part of the story post-production, which provides much more flexibility and scale.

The beauty of product placement is that it is additive to a brand's overall approach without increasing frequency. Our study with Kantar found that in-content advertising actually lifts the performance of TV spots. And of course, the combination of the two increases overall attention.

As brands become more focused on attention, incorporating a more diverse combination of exposures can help create a balanced and even better viewer experience. To get it right, brands need to put in the work to test different scenarios to find the right mix for their goals and their audiences. AdMonsters notes that attention metrics also need to be tested in order to properly associate them with actual campaign performance if brands want to lean into attention for the next decade of digital advertising.

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.

Tim Jones is the global head of research and insights at Mirriad.