By Ian Darby | journalist

August 30, 2022 | 7 min read

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The focus on the attention economy in advertising is becoming sharper. Brewing giant AB InBev is the latest major advertiser to signal its intention to place more emphasis on media investment based on ‘attention’ as opposed to single views or impressions.

Context, Creative & Attention Maximizing the attention opportunity

Context, Creative & Attention Maximizing the attention opportunity

This shift is explained in part by the rise in contextual advertising as a way of harnessing consumer attention, and the growing necessity to look for new ways of engaging with audiences as the third-party cookie becomes a thing of the past.

To consider this, The Drum partnered with Playground xyz, the technology company that’s on a mission to master the art and science of maximizing consumer attention, for a live panel session that explored fresh insights from the company’s new report, ‘Context, Creative and Attention: Using attention signals as a feedback loop for context-advertisement alignment’.

Joining Hannah Bowler, the panel moderator and journalist at The Drum, were:

  • Katie Hartley, managing director of product & innovation, Dentsu Labs

  • Will McMahon, head of adtech, Spark Foundry

  • Samantha Eales, insight manager, Mail Metro Media

  • Amir Malik, managing director, digital marketing expert, Accenture

The panel explored key takeaways from the new research, the challenges and issues that these findings raise for the industry and suggested some solutions for the future. These subjects included ‘Attention Time’, the length of time, in seconds, the ad is looked at, as a powerful feedback loop for contextual advertising.

Watch the full panel session above.

The discussion also focused on the strong relationship between context, creative and attention, the importance of contextual continuity for brands, and issues around the measurement and optimization of ‘Attention Time’.

Mearing 'Attention Time'

Mail Metro Media’s Eales, opened the discussion pointing to the need for publishers to take accountability seriously, and analyze their own sites and other platforms against how these deliver on attention metrics. She said that there’s progress still to be made: “We're developing our own planning tools using our research so we can now say ‘what's going to be better for attention?’ I think we’re quite a way off for measurement, because there is no standardized view on what measurement would be. We can provide it. And we are doing it here and there. But it’s very, very difficult.”

However, solutions are at hand. The panel identified barriers including the need for one unifying measurement metric across the board, and when it comes to eye-tracking to measure attention, ensuring that this is consistent and means one thing. This is an area that Playground xyz has looked to address with its bespoke approach to eye-tracking through its proprietary Attention Intelligence Platform.

McMahon from Spark Foundry came forward with a view on how a focus on the essentials will drive forward the growth of attention: “It needs to go back to brand, uplift, purchase intent, consideration, all the good stuff, basically. And ultimately, to drive business objectives. If we can prove that works, we’ve got ourselves a really powerful metric that works better than viewability.”

The cookieless future

The panel moved forward to discuss “the elephant in the room” – brands heading into a cookieless world – and how a move towards attention time could replace some of the targeting opportunities provided by third-party cookies. Accenture’s Malik had some strong views, arguing that attention provides fresh possibilities: “We should be looking at creating value from that, not just the incremental value, but in a different way to cookie hunting, right? So, the reality is that contextual is great. You get a segment or an environment that you know, and that’s going to be valuable to your brand.”

Dentsu Labs’ Hartley added that Dentsu is already measuring contextual performance in terms of attention and has run head-to-head tests against the performance of cookie-based targeting: “It’s a measurement of attention, so it’s different, but the results have been very encouraging. So, we think there was an over-emphasis on the cookie – we forgot about some other important factors – and we might now as an industry be getting to the right sort of balance.”

The panel turned next to consider the real potential of attention time within contextual advertising, and the importance of contextual continuity, which emerged as a significant finding in the Playground xyz report.

Eales highlighted the extra power that even standard ad formats can deliver in contextually relevant environments with Malik noting the positive impact that strong creative in contextual advertising can have. McMahon agreed, noting that when focusing on attention brands and their agencies should look to identify “passion points” that resonate best with audiences in specific contexts, and then target them with the relevant messages and even to think about brand collaborations.

The session wrapped with each of the panelists selecting a key takeout from the Playground xyz report and the following discussion. Panelists identified the focus on “attention transfer and priming”, and the growth of attention testing and getting more brands involved in this as key issues. Also raised was the potential to better target audiences right down to the specific execution in a context, and how attention time can be a positive force in driving more diverse digital media portfolios for brands.

These seemed like essential insights at a moment when the fast-moving debate around attention is generating greater interest and investment from advertisers.

For more insights on how to leverage the power of context, creative and attention to deliver effective and creative brand advertising, watch the full panel discussion above.

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Playground xyz

Playground XYZ is on a mission to master the art and science of maximizing consumer attention. The company has built the world’s first technology stack that integrates visual attention measurement, analytics and media optimization called the Attention Intelligence Platform.

Find out more

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