Data from attention specialists TVision and Lumen shows that ads in different media perform very differently in terms of generating actual attention: a 30-sec TV ad will generate more than a 15-sec YouTube ad, which will in turn generate more than a digital display ad on a desktop computer, and so on. This is the topic of Ebquity’s ‘Challenge of Attention report which you can download here.

But the cost of buying a thousand impressions in each of these different media (known as the ‘cost per mille’ or ‘CPM’) is also different. For instance, CPMs for TV are far higher than for display advertising.

Combining the attentive seconds per thousand impressions (from TVision and Lumen) with the cost per thousand impressions (from Ebiquity) helps us create a measure of the cost of buying thousand seconds of attention, or ‘aCPM’. We can use this to understand the true cost attention across media.

To illustrate this process, we have taken the mean average CPMs for a single UK client, and applied them to the attentive seconds per thousand impressions (aPM) data.

Before we begin the analysis, we should remember that this is just a worked example, and suffers from many limitations:

· The attention data set: the TV data comes from the US only; the digital data is an amalgam of data from the US, UK, France and Germany.

· The media price data set: your CPMs may vary from these, and of course, there will also be great variation within the media

· Audience and contextual targeting: the cost of some media includes fees for targeting information, while others are more ‘broadcast’

But despite these limitations, we believe that it is still useful to compare the sheer amount of attention you campaigns are generating with the sheer amount of money you are spending to buy this attention.

Layering on the CPM data shows that some media are much more expensive than others on a CPM basis (remembering all the caveats above). It also shows that the market is somewhat ‘rational’: the media that we might expect to be more expensive, like TV, do cost more to buy.

However, when you combine the two datasets, you see the true cost of attention. TV, which is one of the most expensive media to buy on a CPM basis, generates so much more attention per thousand impressions that it is actually an ‘attention bargain’. Desktop display, which looked to be the one of the cheaper media, isn’t cheap enough. These ads generate so little attention that their aCPM is far higher than their comparators.

An ‘attention currency’, when combined with a real currency, has a powerful analytical tool for marketers.

Mike Follett is MD at Lumen and will be chairing a special ATTENTION!@MAD//Fest London stream on 8 July at The Old Truman Brewery featuring top brands, academics, agencies and platforms. Click here to secure your ticket.