I’ve always admired the simplicity of e-commerce marketing. The paid and owned digital media landscape offers such an embarrassment of riches to the online marketer that the challenge is how to make sense of all that wonderful data to generate ever greater levels of insight into how media drives online sales.

Compare that with the poor old world of offline transactions, where sales are driven through 'bricks' rather than 'clicks' (still around 75% of all UK sales). It’s not easy to get a good  view of how your advertising is driving offline sales. At best, you can use statistical analysis (econometrics) to measure sales response from media investment, but you need to design a series of tests over a sustained period to fill in the gaps for what these statistical models can’t pick up. And for short term media optimisation, econometrics doesn’t cut the mustard when you’re waiting 3 months to get a read on campaign performance.

Without that direct line of sight to sales the marketing world is filled with a forest of “proxy metrics”: KPIs that we think show our campaigns are working, such as clicks, views, engagements, brand lift surveys, page landings and time spent on site. These measures are generated by consumers taking an action that we assume indicates their buying intentions. Trouble is, when People don't think what they feel, don't say what they think and don't do what they say, (thanks, Ogilvy), we simply can’t be sure. At worst, some media metrics can be actively misleading - a good example are those websites which seem to deliberately encourage ‘fat finger syndrome’, when you try to close an intrusive video but end up clicking through to the advertisers site which you have zero interest in.. So, a responsible measurement framework needs to be very selective about the KPIs that are used to indicate performance, but broad enough to provide an aggregated directional view.

In this context the emerging discipline of attention is be a real game-changer. Yes, we’re still dealing with a “proxy” metric – just because someone’s paid attention to your ad does not necessarily mean they will go on to buy – but combined with creative best practice, attention is about as close as it’s possible to get towards predicting success. Through attention tests it’s possible to generate media principles about where your brand’s consumers are most receptive to your messages. Through predictive attention algorithms it may even be possible to optimise media and assets in-flight, e-commerce style.

Attention has the potential to revolutionise media planning, and indeed the media industry. Planning to cost efficient, attentive reach will not only multiply marketing ROI for the brands that understand and deploy it, but, in time, the media landscape will be redrawn to favour publishers of high quality content that offers value both to those that consume it, and the brands that support it. I think this year will see us collectively take a big step towards this future.

Sam Gaunt will be speaking on the ATTENTION@MAD//Fest stage which takes place at MAD//Fest on 5, 6, and 7 July at The Old Truman Brewery

Over 7,000 brands and agencies are expected to attend MAD//Fest London 2022, 3,000 more than 2021 when MAD//Fest was the only UK industry festival to take place in physical form. In addition to access to the ATTENTION@MAD//Fest stage you'll also be able to hear from Rachel Waller, Global VP Innovation, Burberry; Cristina Diezhandino, Global CMO, Diageo; Tina Koehler, Global VP Marketing, Deliveroo; James Brown, MD, BrewDog; and Sir Martin Sorrell, Founder & CEO, S4 Capital.

Earlybird tickets are available here.