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InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

How publishers can benefit from the rise of attention analytics

January 19, 2022 | By Mimi Wotring, SVP of Publisher Sales & Client Services – DoubleVerify@doubleverify

Americans spend nearly 8 hours a day on digital devices, according to a new report from eMarketer. Yes, that means time spent on devices now rivals how long people sleep. However, according to Harvard Business Review, for consumers to be affected by advertising messages, they need to be paying attention. This may seem obvious but capturing consumer attention can be challenging.

User attention has become more fleeting in the internet age. A Microsoft study states that the human attention span has dropped to just 8 seconds – shrinking 25% in just a few years. With users seeing thousands of ads per day, and privacy changes affecting how we measure performance, how can the industry determine whether an ad was seen by someone who is actually paying attention?

The opportunity in attention measurement

The rise of the internet set up the reach and quality metrics that everyone is familiar with today, but a lot has changed since then. In pursuit of optimal performance, advertisers gained interest in additional ways to measure and categorize impressions using brand suitability, contextual relevance, viewability and fraud. While these metrics have improved advertising performance immensely, none of them effectively measure attention.

Specific, industry-accepted metrics to measure attention are still being defined. They are also impacted by increased pressure to ensure privacy-friendly measurement. Some solutions rely on eye tracking and other technologies that are based on sampling.

Pay attention to measurement criteria

Our approach to attention measurement is a more complex endeavor that includes a combination of over 50 exposure and engagement signals that help us understand whether a user’s attention is or isn’t captured by an ad. Exposure signals include an ad’s entire presentation, such as viewable time, share of screen, audibility and more. The engagement side focuses on user-initiated events while the ad creative is displayed, including user touches, screen orientation, video playback and volume control, among others. These signals give advertisers and publishers helpful information about ad performance for both campaign and inventory optimization.

Rising use of attention metrics comes at a time when performance is getting harder to measure directly due to privacy changes across the industry. Behavioral targeting enabled by third-party cookies is giving way to other methods for measuring ad performance. For many advertisers, combining attention and quality metrics is a way to utilize new KPIs that can effectively improve performance over time.

People have grown increasingly savvy, avoiding or ignoring intrusive and non-relevant ad placements, so publishers and marketers must evolve to improve experiences and performance. Attention is a way to use privacy-friendly data to measure ad impact without using third-party cookies to track or measure data from the user.

How publishers benefit from analyzing attention

These insights enable more effective media buying, but how can publishers better understand attention as it relates to their inventory? First, we need to understand how attention is measured.

Attention is understood through a mix of exposure and engagement. Exposure is measured by looking at how long an ad was viewed by a user, how it was presented and what share of the screen did the ad take up. Engagement is measured by checking if a user is present and looking at whether they interacted with the ad. This includes actions such as clicks, hovers, volume adjustments, screen orientation, etc.

Key attention themes to watch for in 2022

  • Exposure: Brand awareness can be driven by measuring exposure to better understand how insights such as time-in-view, share of screen or quartile completion correlate with brand favorability and recall improvements over time.
  • Engagement: Metrics such as hover, click and mute rates show how optimized engagement can directly lead to increased conversions.
  • Cost-Benefit: Publishers that use attention to increase ad engagement can demand higher pricing from existing placements.
  • Understand Creative Impact: Advertisers can begin building better creatives based on knowing when and where to place messaging for maximum impact.

Analyzing attention gives publishers an opportunity to better understand how to package premium inventory in new ways. Advertisers value the increased conversions and brand awareness that comes with placements that result in higher attention rates. Similar to packaging inventory based on quality, this inventory can garner higher CPMs. With the right analytical tech stack, attention measurement enables publishers to understand their inventory in new ways, helping to drive yield.

It’s still early days for attention measurement, but signs are growing that it’s here to stay. Like any new set of metrics, the industry must come together to agree on standards that allow for interoperability and simple communication between buyers and sellers. Ultimately, it’s important to remember that attention is a way to better understand users and the impact of advertising, which is why the industry must evolve alongside new behaviors with the help of new data and analysis.

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