Around 6 months ago, following a career in media measurement, I took on a role with a group called The Attention Council ( TAC is a not-for-profit membership group that is focussed on driving the wider use of attention metrics for marketing and media industry. Any quick glance through the media trade press will show you how attention metrics have become arguably the most widely discussed topic in terms of media planning and media measurement. Indeed last week, I was on a panel at the IAB Interact conference and I was asked by a moderator as to why attention metrics have come to the fore recently.

I would suggest that attention, in so far as media is concerned, is aiding decisions both across different media channels and within those channels. In other words, how attentive is my audience towards TV versus online media, as well as within media ie. which sites or programmes should I invest behind? However going back to core question: why is attention so relevant now?

I would argue that attention is highly correlated to engagement. The latter construct being a key component of the Advertising Research Foundation's model of how advertising works (add link to ARF). Engagement was defined in numerous ways within audience surveys ranging from time spent reading in print studies to the capture of dwell time in online measurement. So arguably the related space is not new.

However what has changed is the ability to measure attention via the cameras within the technology we use to consume media and ads. There are now a number of companies who have incorporated eye-tracking technology into their research solutions. In other words, advances in consumer technology have opened the opportunity for richer measurement (be aware of the rise of lowering cost of the measurement of attention via neuroscience, facial recognition and galvanic skin response).

I would also argue that other cross screen measurement initiatives such as ISBA’s Project Origin, will also push demand for attention-based metrics. At the point when Origin starts to publish cross screen impressions, for TV and digital video, I am confident the conversation will quickly move from what is the de-duplicated reach and frequency to a discussion of the relative value of the impressions being served by the different channels e.g. is an impression on UGC on YouTube worth the same as one generated from the centre break of Coronation Street? Attention metrics could provide a critical overlay to these new audience metrics.

Being able to measure attention in a world of device-based metrics is clearly helpful for understanding how people consumer media. However, we also we know that buying media on the basis of attention works very effectively to drive all key funnel metrics. Another way of saying attention-based planning drives effective outcomes.

What is next for attention metrics?  There is significant interest and investment in attention metrics on both the buy and sell side of the media industry. In the world of measurement, there is a concept of money at risk. That is to say that the more money invested means a greater level of measurement and research. There is no doubt in my mind that the development of attention-based media planning and selling is valuable and I would not for a second suggest clients stop their usage in media planning or selling. However, (and it came up on the panel last week in a discussion about their usage versus viewability), we do need more experimental design work, to elevate attention measurement to a “currency” that can be measured and potentially audited alongside the more traditional media trading measurement currencies. To that end, TAC is in discussion with a number of trade bodies about how we move forward with this development work.

Andy will be speaking at ATTENTION@MAD//Fest. Click here to get your early bird ticket.