90% Right; 100% Wrong

Levels of attention, what that notion means in relation to ads, and how we should go about measuring it is having a bit of a moment. Hopefully it will be a moment that lasts years as this is clearly an important issue and raises matters of principle in how we go about the business of placing and evaluating advertising.

A couple of weeks ago The Cog Blog reported on Dentsu work; now we have a study from Ebiquity. Both use UK data from Lumen, Ebiquity add US data from TVision. Further work from the person who perhaps more than any other started this ball rolling way back when, Karen Nelson-Field has been done in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Australia and the US, much of it shared with the asi community via podcasts and their annual conference.

The Dentsu work seemed to involve a number of vendors, including Facebook in its planning and implementation. I suspect, and Dentsu can easily correct me by commenting, that the bulk of the cost was borne by these sales organisations too. Whether that matters in terms of the findings and how they’re presented is up to users to decide.

The Ebiquity work was I believe independent of any vendor or indeed agency involvement.

Regardless, we are now getting to the stage where there is much public information and data swilling around, much of it consistent from Lumen, TVision and Karen Nelson-Field’s Amplified Intelligence.

Discussions around attention to advertising, or rather lack of attention are hardly new. I recall a study from the early 1980’s (although ‘study’ may imply a certain rigour that wasn’t there) involving JWT’s then Creative Director, Allen Thomas calculating how many ads he was exposed to over a typical day, and how many he remembered at the end of the day.

Several thousand, and about 4 were (if I remember correctly) his conclusion.

With apologies to the late, great Allen we now have a rather more technically robust, research-y way of getting to much the same findings.

The fact is, as we’ve always known people have ‘opportunities to see’ a shed-load of messages and remember very few.

I also remember the great Mike Yershon telling me that first in break, in the first break of the first episode of a new series was the greatest builder of attention you could find (in large part because of the number of light commercial TV viewers attracted to something new).

One debate at the time centred around whether it was better to be in a programme environment of great viewer involvement, on the basis that nobody left the room during the commercial break for fear of missing something, or whether that was hogwash as the break offered the only viable opportunity to do something else for a few minutes.

If you believed the latter then a less-involving editorial context appealed as you just stayed put and did whatever the old-days equivalent of fiddling with your phone was (picking up a copy of ‘The Radio Times’?).

What we now have is the technical wherewithal to start to answer a number of questions like this, and their modern equivalents.

Is there a platform effect – does Facebook per se deliver a less-attention-grabbing environment than YouTube? Is there a difference between different elements of FB (yes, according to Dentsu)?

Does comedy attract and hold attention more than drama? Does this apply to ad copy? Does it correlate with pre-test findings?

Do stars attract and hold attention more than mere mortals, and if so what sort of stars?

What about pure audio? Or audio consumed as one element of a video message (hearing an ad whilst not in the room, for instance)?

How about print, OOH, and static online ads, and how they’re laid out and designed?

And eventually someone’s going to work out a way of quantifying the potentially greatest attention-grabbing medium of them all – cinema.

Next week The Attention Council is hosting a summit of the great and the good from the attention measurement community. It will be well worth a look.

I was always taught that it was better to be 90% right than 100% wrong. On that basis we should not get too bogged down in technical arguments (which need of course to go on in parallel) but rather go in search of pragmatic and actionable solutions.

  1. Hi Brian,

    I commented when you last posted on ‘Dentsu on Attention’ but on your LinkedIn post re. a number of the questions/comments you raised about the Dentsu work.

    Just to address a few of those points here, as you raise them again:

    On the question of funding:
    Over the past 3 years the Attention Economy project has been funded, guided and supported by 8 media owner partners. These include (inclusive of Phase 1) Google, Facebook, Twitter, A broadcaster in the US with UK interests, Snapchat, Verizon Media, Teads, Hulu and Spotify.

    Our ambition from the start was to involve a broad cross section of media owners from most video platforms to get a fair and balanced group of consultants.

    It’s also worth mentioning that a client council of 15+ global brands at Dentsu have helped to shape and challenge the approach too, so it’s been a programme that has involved research companies (Amplified Intelligence, TVision and Lumen), independent consultants (the great Sue Elms), ourselves as Dentsu and a large group of the brands that we work with.

    Funding has come from both Dentsu and the media owner partners, simply because this stuff is expensive. That investment helped pay for the data access, building eye-tracking panels (with Amplified and Lumen) and indeed the resource to analyze and do all the work.

    In return for that investment media owners have received consultancy benefits e.g. giving their POV on the areas of attention that they believe are important to measure (specifically to Facebook, they were keen to understand better the link between attention and ‘outcome’) but all media owners had their chance to review methodology and approach. There’s also a case of benefiting from being ‘inside’ a potentially big change in media currency/measurement than having it thrust on them later down the line. + opportunities to PR and produce thought leadership as part of the programme and potentially develop products down the line that allow dentsu clients to buy or activate on attention metrics with these partners.

    I’m happy to talk about this at any point with you, but simply put a collection of data at this scale, with this caliber of research needed a lot of investment and I’m thankful for the partnership from all.

    It’s also worth mentioning that the great work delivered by Ebiquity and Lumen last week, was arguably only made possible by these investments. Many of the capabilities (panels mainly) that could have been used in this analysis were only built off the back of this investment and because of the work done by dentsu and partners prior.

    Also worth mentioning that dentsu in partnership with TVison have produced a series of research papers/thought pieces on attention in TV (for the US) that looks at things like programme genre, daypart, second length, co-viewing etc. on TV which you might find interesting. We’re looking to see how we can apply that data in the UK market or build a comparable capability (wouldn’t it be great to build that on top of the newly announced c-flight proposition!).

    We’ve also got some stuff coming on Audio (through a partnership with Spotify and Amplified Intelligence) but are awaiting full data collection across the piece at the moment.

    Very happy to talk more about the programme, partners, money, future, influence, whatever you want, it’s an open invite.

    Kind regards,

  2. Hi Jon and thanks for taking the time to comment.
    My point really was that it has never been clear (at least not to me) that your Attention Economy work was in part funded by media owners.
    I’m not saying that co-funding is a good or a bad thing – I know very well that these things cost money and I understand the constraints on media agency research budgets better than maybe you know!
    But there is no mention of your partners in the booklet I have here and unless I missed it this point was also not covered during your webinar.
    I think this is a great initiative, as I said in the blog a couple of weeks ago: “..all credit to them for the ambition, the consistency and what I would guess is a not inconsiderable investment.”
    But I think it’s best to open about partners.
    I would certainly be interested to learn more about the programme.
    Maybe you could suggest a day and time? Preferably after 22nd as I’m due to report back on a consulting initiative then!
    All the best.

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