What brands and agencies can be doing now to trade attention and where to start

What is the industry doing to trade attention?

At this point in time, attention is still predominantly used in planning and optimisation.

There’s a way to go before we see attention traded as a common currency, however we’re moving in the right direction as agencies and brands increasingly factor it in making channel and format decisions, and publishers continue to invest in understanding the strength of their products.

Okay, so what are the options available right now?

Where we’ve seen the most progress and will continue to in the short-term is in the programmatic space.

A great example of this is being able to focus on delivering not only attention but critically, ‘effective attention’ (attention that leads to outcomes) across display and video. This is based on an attention prediction model that factors in variables such as environment, format, size, time of day and viewability to make buying decisions.


Outside of this, what we know is that there’s a tipping point for the impact of attention on memory encoding and brand choice beyond which more is more.

This means that buying and optimising to qualitative objectives and metrics that positively influence attention time provides a means to reach and exceed this point where we’re not currently able to leverage advanced attention optimisation capabilities.

How does a digital marketing industry based on R&F and price work to build out new systems?

In terms of standardised systems our point of view is that this will take time, collaboration and alignment across the industry and its stakeholders, but this doesn’t mean we can’t make progress through the areas already touched upon and beyond.

What’s important however is that as attention becomes more prevalent as a metric and even currency, it doesn’t mean a complete departure from traditional metrics.

Reach and frequency will still play a key role in effectiveness, whilst attention will need to show efficiency in delivering outcomes, and it’s key that we understand the relationship between attention and traditional metrics and get the balance right on behalf of clients.

What are the challenges in comparing apples with apples amid a landgrab/race to market?

The challenge, as with any environment in which there are differing technologies, methodologies, and solutions is in ensuring you build the best partnerships for your clients. This is magnified by the fact that the market, partner capabilities and coverage are still evolving.

Ultimately, are brands willing to pay more for attention?

When it comes to the question of whether brands are willing to pay more for attention this is ultimately down to proving its value.

Many brands have entrenched media principles that have been built on traditional metrics and based on what has ultimately proven to deliver results. Additionally, what success looks like and the potential role of attention will vary from brand to brand (and even campaign to campaign).

There is a really strong foundation to build from to open conversations with clients on the value of attention and where appropriate, paying more to deliver it.

It’s worth noting however that not all movements towards increased attention come at a cost premium. Within certain channels you can be smart about the format and creative choices you make when planning to deliver net neutral in traditional metrics and net positive in terms of attention.

Given all of the above, where should advertisers start?

The best place to start is to understand how attention relates to objectives and the role that media needs to play in delivering these.

Brand contact will require less sustained attention to brand advocacy. A famous brand with instantly recognisable distinctive assets and cues might be better suited focusing on efficiency while bearing in mind minimum thresholds for impacting memory and brand choice.

Even beyond this, the role of different channels and formats in delivering attention within a mix will be different when we think about establishment vs reinforcement of messaging.

Once the role of attention and what’s required is established, we believe it’s about understanding how it interacts with traditional metrics in planning and finding the right balance, leveraging available buying and optimisation capabilities and testing with the correct measurement in place to understand effectiveness.

Danni Wright, chief strategy officer at Carat

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