Solving For A Different Kind Of Attention Deficit

On TV and Video” is a column exploring opportunities and challenges in advanced TV and video.

Today’s column is written by Maggie Zhang, senior vice president of video research and insights at Dentsu Aegis Network.

Call it irony, but the topic of capturing a customer’s attention now dominates the attention of brand marketers.

As anyone in the measurement business can appreciate, the devil is always in the details. While we embrace the value and promise of attention, there is a lack of comparable and scalable attention data for cross-media planning and buying. This poses an operational challenge and tangible risk for both brands and media owners.

Brands could, and will, lose if they keep using inequitable attention metrics that mislead media valuation and budget allocation. At the same time, some media owners could lose if they continue to be unfairly measured and evaluated on attention, resulting in decreased investment.

On the digital front, a few accredited measurement services offer scalable, census-level viewability measurement compliant with Media Rating Council standards. But digital viewability does not automatically equal attention. Existing digital attention metrics are largely derived from device-level, delivery-based calculation without factoring in human presence or “eyes on screen,” a commonly used attention measurement approach.

On the TV front, commercially available TV attention data does account for human presence and eyes on screen, but this measurement is only limited to the TV glass, not including desktop or mobile. It is not sufficiently scalable in many cases to slice and dice all the nuances at the campaign, tactic or local level.

These different approaches and limitations create a barrier to achieve a like-for-like comparison and fair valuation across media channels.

A road map for comparable attention measurement across media

What can we do to solve for this attention disconnect? How do we best leverage existing TV and digital measurement to create parity? How do we enable a fully operational and robust attention measurement for TV and video planning and buying?

There are a few paths to ensure both short-term “operationability” and long-term viability of using attention in cross-media planning and buying.

In the short term, efforts can be made to calibrate and reconcile existing TV and digital attention metrics in the marketplace. We can establish a proxy factor of human presence and attention and use it to calibrate digital attention metrics by platform or device. Existing eye tracking and neuroscience research and future observational studies can shed light on how attention correlates with viewing device, platform, content and ad type to establish benchmarks.

These benchmarks should be updated periodically and used as a calibrating factor for digital attention measurement. The drawback of this approach is that it is a static calibration at the platform or device level and does not capture granularity or nuance. That being said, it does serve as an initial calibration framework to bring digital and TV attention metrics closer and make them more comparable.

Opportunities also exist to create new custom metrics by overlaying signals of human presence and attention onto digital attention measurement. Many digital measurement and verification vendors have capabilities for capturing attention signals such as cursor movement, scroll, click or eye movement and facial expression. This approach allows for a dynamic digital attention metric at a more scalable and granular level.

Finally, as we are looking for a long-term solution of cross-media attention measurement, we need to revisit the current definition of attention and create a more robust and accurate way to operationalize it. For example, audio, a critical dimension of video as a multisensory medium, is not yet accounted for in the current attention measurement.

The next generation attention metric should be more reflective of the multisensory nature of sight, sound and motion. More consumer-focused primary research is needed to understand and delineate the impact of audio and the interaction between sight and sound in order to accurately redefine attention. This will inevitably require technology investment and system updates from both measurement providers and media owners.

Innovating for attention, together

The mandate from brands is loud and clear: Not all impressions are created equal. Attention gets us closer to measuring the value of media and bridging the gap across channels. Brands demand a scalable, robust and equitable solution to measure attention across media. They have been leading the charge and rallying partners around this common goal.

We should see this as a strong call for collaboration between brands, agency partners, measurement providers and media owners. We need more open dialogues, cutting-edge research and strategic partnerships to solve for the current significant disconnect between TV and digital attention measurement.

There is no doubt that new technology capabilities and innovative data sources will emerge through collective efforts to improve how attention is defined, measured and operationalized within media planning and buying. This road map is only the very beginning for realizing the promise of attention as we move a step closer to understanding marketing’s impact across all media.

Now is the time for everyone to stand up and take notice.

Follow Dentsu Aegis Network (@dentsuaegis) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger) on Twitter.

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1 Comment

  1. This is something that doesn’t get discussed enough even after digital has continued to evolve over the last few years. It will be interesting to see what new technology becomes available to tie TV and Digital together while addressing the consumer’s privacy concerns in a transparent way.