This week’s successful Attention Council event raised some important issues about what attention is, why it’s important and what advertisers should do next. 

The meeting welcomed new members to the Council from Tesco, British Gas, Anheuser Busch, Moet & Chandon, Electrolux, Havas and Horizon Media, as well as Les Binet, of Adam and Eve DDB, one of the most respected thinkers in the ad world. There followed an interesting discussion with Paolo Provinciali of AB InBev and Stacey Chagnon of Microsoft about how they are already using attention metrics to drive enhanced performance in their media buying. The event concluded with an interview with Jerry Daykin of GSK and the Conscious Advertising Network about the financial and ethical implications of investing in quality media. 

Throughout the event, three questions kept on coming up: 

  • What? 
  • So What? 
  • Now What? 

What is the Attention Council? 

The Attention Council (TAC) is a group that brings together a combination of ad industry professionals, academics, technology vendors and marketers to form thought-leadership around the attention economy. Founding members include Dr Karen Nelson-Field, Marc Guldimann, of Adelaide, Ezra Peirce of Avocet, Yan Liu of TVision and Lumen’s own Mike Follett. 

The Council promotes the use of attention metrics to create incentives that align all stakeholders in the media and advertising ecosystem. Research from TAC members has proven that low-clutter, high-attention and consumer-friendly experiences deliver the most effective impact for brands. 

When advertisers can measure the quality of digital placements through the lens of attention metrics, we believe demand for higher quality placements will increase. This then creates economic incentives for publishers to offer experiences that respect consumers and deliver value to brands.

So What? 

One of the big themes of the conference was the difference between ads that are merely viewable and ads that are actually viewed. It was interesting to hear brand owner after brand owner say how disappointed they were by viewability data, which seems to have limited value in predicting sales or brand recall. Making sure that your ads are viewable is, of course, necessary. But what counts is making sure that they actually get seen. Attention data is the ‘So What?’ here. 

Now what?

There was a wide range of responses to the opportunity of ‘attention targeting’. Some brands are just ‘putting their toe in the water’. Others, however, are using attention data to optimise campaigns right now. It was interesting to hear from Stacy Chagnon of Microsoft on how they use Adelaide’s optimisation product to identify ad inventory that is more likely to get seen (Adelaide use Lumen data as an ingredient in their optimisation algorithm). It was also exciting to hear about the improvements in performance that Avocet have seen in using Lumen attention data on to optimise the ad buying for a big British telecoms client. You don’t have to wait for the future: it’s already here. 

But there is still so much to do. Jon Waite of Dentsu spoke persuasively about the need for cross-platform metrics and the hope that Phase 2 of their Attention Economy project, which will feature both TVision and Lumen’s data will give robust insight into the differences in attention across media. And Jerry Daykin was quick to warn about the possibility of attention becoming an unhelpful, procrustean metric unless it’s related to outcomes and the overall health of the media ecosystem. There are exciting times ahead. 

Mike Follett is MD at Lumen.