Digital Advertising

Why brand advertisers are shifting to attention-based metrics


By Jessica Goodfellow | Media Reporter

November 14, 2017 | 6 min read

After a troubling year for digital advertising the world's biggest brands are cautiously re-embracing programmatic. Although, they are now turning to attention-based metrics to better ensure brand safety and overall return on investment (ROI).

This was the consensus shared from attendees at The Drum's recent Programmatic Punch event. Speaking on Thursday (9 November), participants in a panel that explored the growth of programmatic across apps, mobile and video said this shift towards more inventory quality assurances has been prompted in part by Procter & Gamble chief brand officer Marc Pritchard’s keynote speech earlier this year, in which he called for greater transparency in the digital supply chain, which he called "murky at best, fraudulent at worst".

Now that media buying using programmatic technology accounts for 72% of display advertising spend in the UK, publishers, agencies and big brands are beginning to rethink the tendency to "race to the bottom" when approaching programmatic by simply chasing views or clicks.

The demand for attention-based metrics is increasing

The demand for attention-based metrics is helping to restore brands' faith in programmatic media buying

What's more, the walled gardens of the internet each have different standards for what denotes a 'view', with Facebook counting a view as three-seconds or more versus YouTube's 30-seconds.

Facebook said last month that it doesn't believe there is value in a one-size-fits-all currency when it comes to video viewability, instead preferring to offer advertisers flexibility to trade and buy video in a way that drives value for their business.

While Facebook's argument is that some clients buy as cheaply as possible where other more luxury clients care about view duration, this only works to further muddy the waters of viewability, according to panel participants.

The latest marketing news and insights straight to your inbox.

Get the best of The Drum by choosing from a series of great email briefings, whether that’s daily news, weekly recaps or deep dives into media or creativity.

Sign up

Which is where attention-based metrics come in. In traditional CPM (cost per thousand) buys, all impressions are valued equally, e.g. an impression that lasts one second on a viewer’s screen is valued the same as an impression that lasts 30 seconds. Attention-based metrics breaks that model down in order to allow advertisers to trade on how long someone watched and was engaged with their ad.

"Completed view doesn't tell you too much, how many people are paying attention for a second, two seconds? That is the big opportunity moving forward – moving into an attention economy," said Jon Hook, vice-president EMEA of brands and agencies at AdColony.

"That tech is there so it is up to advertisers to demand that from their partners," he added.

In line with this, the Financial Times (FT) developed a new cost-per-hour (CPH) metric which is designed to attach value only to impressions lasting more than five seconds whilst the user is engaged with the page and, therefore, to deliver greater brand impact for each dollar of advertising spend.

CPH was informed by research which showed that brand awareness, uplift and association all increase the longer an ad is in view.

While attention-based metrics is not a new concept, adoption rates have been slow. However, Aurelia Noel, global digital partner at Carat, revealed that there is a demand for this fledgling type of trading from "more mature advertisers", naming Diageo, Mondelez and Heineken as examples of the type of brands who are recognising the difference between viewability and attention.

"At end of the day this year was the year of brand safety and viewability...In video especially, a lot of inventory still cant be tracked, neither by IAS or others. Outside of just changing the way we measure our campaigns, we also need to change the way we plan and manage our campaigns," Noel added.

Responding to this, Clementina Piazza, programmatic director of Integral Ad Science (IAS), said video is a "very tricky area" to agree on standards, and that in-app is "even trickier".

"It is about time [we brought] all of those available solutions together and understanding what are the limitations of the available solution and how the interpreting solution can react to those. It is an IAS technology challenge but also a challenge overall with regards to how many environments support it," Piazza said.

Noel also believes that advertisers are not harnessing 'moments' - that is when is the best time to connect with a customer.

"Even when we have the right moments, the creative falls short because we are not taking advantage of creative optimisation, whether in display or video," she added.

Digital Advertising

More from Digital Advertising

View all


Industry insights

View all
Add your own content +