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By Michael Nutley | Writer for The Drum

July 12, 2022 | 7 min read

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What is attention, and why should brands be thinking about it instead of more familiar concepts such as reach and scale?

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Industry leaders join the chat for a live episode of Seedtag's AdTech Heroes podcast in Cannes 2022

That was the question posed by Dal Gill, vice-president global partnership at contextual advertising specialists Seedtag, introducing the live episode of the firm’s AdTech Heroes podcast from Cannes 2022 – Driving interest and engagement in the attention economy – produced by The Drum in partnership with Seedtag.

Panelist Danielle Darko, global programmatic director at Mediacom, summed up the importance of attention as: “the distinction between being seen and being noticed.”

“It’s a step up from viewability,” she continued. “Let’s move away from 10-years of staring at viewability, saying, ‘was my ad seen for two seconds?’ It’s all about ‘was it noticed; did it generate an action that is beneficial for my brand?’ That is why attention is important. Studies show that with a little bit of focus on attention, you will see an uplift in brand recall and in brand awareness for your client and for your brand.”

Her co-panelist Michelle Sarpong, head of display and audio activation at The7Stars, put attention in the context of the consumer.

“We need to put the customer at the heart of things,” she said. “What will grab their attention, what would actually interest them to then make that purchase? That’s what we need to do to make sure we’re doing right by our clients, and by the brands as well.”

The resurgence of creative

This new emphasis on grabbing consumers’ attention is putting greater emphasis back on to creative teams. Andrés Ordóñez, chief creative officer at FCB Chicago, argued that attention is the reason why creativity is so important for every brand, because without creativity, everything falls back into the formulaic.

“We have to start from an attention standpoint every time we do work,” he said. “Then we think about how we are going to become that magnet for consumers?”

According to Sarpong, clients too are increasingly recognizing the importance of creative, and are more willing to put it at the front of their thinking.

“Clients now are saying ‘We’ve got this creative, how do we adapt our media plans to fit?’ So creative testing is becoming more prominent. We’re finding more publishers bringing that as a part of their package, saying ‘Before you run on our platforms, let’s test your creatives and see which ones engage with our audience,’ and actually taking ownership of that conversation as well.”

Reuniting creative and media

This growing emphasis on attention is also encouraging a closer relationship between creative and media. Ordóñez argued that having both media and creative involved in the initial briefing will always lead to better overall results.

“If the involvement of media comes later, it will always be harder.” he said. “Sometimes, you start creativity from your side with the client, and then you get to media, and they’ll say ‘We don’t even have those channels’. So, we need to start sooner. I also believe that when media gives us a strategy, that makes the work bulletproof when it goes to the client. It shows we’re doing the right thing for the right reasons. It’s more about how media backs up the creativity of the work before it goes out into the market.”

Greater diversity equals better work

The panel also discussed the importance of diversity and inclusion as drivers of attention-grabbing work, with everyone agreeing that a diverse team will produce stronger work. Alex Montero, worldwide business director at media agency mSix&Partners, suggested that when people can be themselves, they are able to commit fully to their work. He gave the example of a recent WPP cross-agency project for London Pride which, he said, was exclusively done by queer people, for queer people.

“Even though everyone was from different agencies, everyone was there with a purpose,” he explained. “And when you give someone a purpose, they will deliver a better job. It’s the same for brands. When brands have a purpose and have something to say it will resonate much more with people.”

Sarpong agreed and linked the idea of purpose to another hot topic: authenticity.

“Consumers are really looking for authenticity and, actually, that comes from the creative, which comes from your workforce,” she said. “That then ladders back up to how people engage with your ads, and this is where attention comes from.”

Ordóñez noted how tapping into his team members’ passions is a crucial part of how FCB works.

“When a brief comes is, we ask who the right people are to put around it, what are the right lenses to be looking at this through, because we know that if you have a passion point already related to that brief, it will connect. And that goes back to the power of creativity to connect to people’s hearts.”

Want attention at scale? Get smart

The final piece of the attention jigsaw is context. Darko argued that this is what allows brands and agencies to achieve attention at scale. She talked about how brands are seeing more uplift in terms of the engagement with their ads simply by targeting their desired audiences in an environment where they’re already engaged with the content.

“Then, not only can you also look at where you want to put the ad, you don’t have to worry about it only being ‘above the fold’. It’s okay to be at the bottom of the page, because that person is engaged in reading that article, and they will happily engage with the ad below the fold. So, you can still get scale by doing it smart.”

After this discussion of change across the industry, Darko had the final word.

“Delivering the right message about the right product to the right audience at the right time will never change,” she said. “How we do that, though, is about to get interesting.”

Want to find out more? Check out the session summary video at the head of this article or visit Seedtag's AdTech Heroes podcast for more info.

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About us: Seedtag is the leading Contextual Advertising Company that creates highly impactful and engaging solutions for relevant premium visual content, powering targeting and returns for top publishers and the finest brands. The company’s contextual A.I. allows brands to engage with consumers within their universe of interest on a cookie-free basis.

Seedtag was founded in Madrid in 2014 by two ex-Googlers who wanted to get the most out of editorial images and to this day it is a global company that has more than 180 employees and an important international presence with offices in Spain, France, Italy, UK, Benelux, Germany, Mexico, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Chile and United Arab Emirates.

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