Can you measure consumer attention? Yes. Here’s how.

July 30, 2020 | 3 minute read
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Consumer attention spans are shrinking. Or so they say. The 2015 Microsoft study many marketers often refer to that suggested attention spans decreased from 12 seconds to eight seconds was later disproven. So where do we stand with attention spans? Are they really shrinking?

The reality is it’s incredibly hard to prove with any legitimacy. What we do know is that there are more devices, channels, platforms, publishers, and content than ever before. And that consumer attention is fragmented across all of these at any given moment. So while attention spans aren’t decreasing, they are in high demand.

For marketers, this means measurement becomes even more critical because you need to understand what messages, ads, formats, and channels are driving success for your brand. While most marketers focus on verification metrics such as viewability and brand safety, you need to go beyond this baseline level of measurement and focus on attention. Understanding how people pay attention to your ads means you can better determine how your campaigns are driving business outcomes.

The question is, how? Here are five steps that will take your ad measurement strategy to the next level by going beyond verification and measuring attention signals.

1. Understand there is no single metric that determines success

Here’s the kicker: there is no standalone metric that determines if an ad or campaign is successful. In reality, a combination of metrics is required, as this provides a holistic view of performance. So if you think you can just focus on one or two prescribed metrics and use those as indicators of success, you’re mistaken. Measure every impression across every channel you have available to you and use a wide array of metrics to determine how people are engaging with your ads.

2. Measure against benchmarks

You won’t know if the measurement results you get are good or bad unless you measure against benchmarks. Use regional and industry benchmarks to determine how successful your campaigns are, and then measure success over time using your own benchmarks. This will ensure you gain a true understanding of advertising performance while also helping you track progress over time—leading to a sophisticated understanding of your campaigns and the best areas for increased investment.

3. Find the metrics that matter to you

A big part of effective measurement is choosing the metrics that matter to your marketing and business objectives. These will change based on the business you’re in and the specific campaigns you have running, so it’s important to understand all the metrics and performance signals available to you.

4. Use measurement outputs to tell compelling stories to clients and customers

How you report success and progress matters, and it changes based on which side of the business you sit.

For publishers, attention metrics will allow you to demonstrate the value of your media inventory and the quality of your audience. Agency marketers can instill confidence in clients by delivering more detailed campaign results with deep insights that reveal how people engaged with ads, what ads performed best, and why. Meanwhile, brand-side marketers will understand how the campaigns that your agency or internal teams are running perform with more granularity.

5. Understand the core attention metrics

While you need to find the metrics that matter to you, there are a few attention metrics that will form the core of every measurement strategy. Once you understand these core attention metrics, you’ll be better equipped to measure more advanced metrics.

  • Active Page Dwell Time: This metric determines the time spent with content. It tracks the average time spent with content in the foreground tab of the web browser—the most reputable way to measure time spent with content. Active page dwell time is used across desktop display, mobile, and branded content.

  • In-View Time: This is a baseline attention metric that measures the average amount of time people spend with an ad once 50 percent of pixels are in view for at least one continuous second. It is predominantly used on mobile and desktop display.

  • % Video Played In-View:  For video, we need to assess the quality of the video ad exposures, including a mix of sight, sound, and motion signals. This metric is one of the stronger indicators of attention for video ads. It measures the percentage of video that users watched while the ad was in view.


Allan Stormon

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