Media Measurement Brand Strategy Media Planning and Buying

The media battleground: linking attention metrics to business outcomes


By Jenni Baker, Senior Editor

November 13, 2023 | 7 min read

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In the second of a three-part series on the art and science of attention, we explore what it will take to shift from KPI-driven metrics to attention as a new currency to deliver outcome-driven results.

Outbrain's Captivate event - Focusing on the importance of attention metrics

Outbrain's Captivate event - Focusing on the importance of attention metrics

In a media environment that’s constantly changing and rife with distractions, mastering the art of attention is more vital than ever. Capturing it is one thing, while capitalizing on it as a new digital media metric has become an increasing focus for brands and agencies looking for a better understanding of media quality and an easy way to use that to drive better outcomes.

In the age of attention, it has become clear that viewability as a primary metric is no longer enough to gauge the true success of advertising. While viewability can still tell advertisers that their ads were in view of a consumer, it doesn’t show how engaged they were or how they interacted with the ad. Attention metrics go beyond the impression to provide a more precise method in assessing the quality and effectiveness of media.

In fact, attention metrics combine multiple measurements including engagement metrics, conversion rates, bounce rates, completion rates, click-through rates and more, offering a more comprehensive view of ad performance and, therefore, attention.

“Attention metrics are part of an industry-wide push to measure whether someone is able to absorb an ad’s message providing insight into the quality of engagement and campaign efficacy,” explains Alexander Erlmeier, chief revenue officer at Outbrain. “They provide deep insight into what works well for your audience – from channel mix and placement to creative and format type selection, helping to enhance trust between brands and publishers, by optimizing campaigns toward high-quality audience engagement.”

Is attention worth the squeeze?

There’s a lot of talk about attention everywhere, but unless it’s driving an outcome, is it worth it?

“Why do we spend advertising money? In the end, we do that because we want to make sure it delivers an outcome that matters,” says Stefanie Hartstern, global data & analytics director, EssenceMediacom, who was speaking at Outbrain’s recent Captivate event. “For many companies, that outcome is sales. Then, more than driving more sales, can attention deliver a higher ROI? To really understand that requires a rigorous testing approach to turn promises into confidence.”

Agreeing a framework for a foundation of media and marketing effectiveness around the KPIs that really matter to a business requires an understanding of the right mix of measurement.

“If we don’t optimize what we have and push the boundaries of new modeling, new ways of measuring campaigns, we will reduce effectiveness into a pure and very simple exercise of tracking performance and then reporting back,” says Dr. Graziella Castro, global head of marketing effectiveness, HSBC. “Attention [should be seen] as an input for media planning, not an output.”

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Turning attention into action

Attention is just one part of the effectiveness conversation – but it’s only adding value when it’s driving a response. Vicky Crouch-Marlow, client planning partner, the7stars, says that marketers shouldn’t lose sight of the wider goal by focusing too narrowly on one aspect.

“When you look at KPIs too granularly, the reality is you forget about that bigger picture,” she says. “We need to think about how attention could be swaying the upfront channel decisions. It’s a balancing act for planning work – thinking about exactly where attention comes into the journey.”

While it’s possible now to link attention as an important metric to immediate sales, James Wrigley, head of business intelligence, Zenith says: “If attention is going to be a metric that sticks for the long-term, we need to appreciate how it can be involved in brand building, further up the consumer journey. We need a better understanding of how attention is important in terms of actions and how that shifts from one part of the customer journey to another.”

“Not all attention is created equal,” adds Andrew Spurrier-Dawes, global head of client and agency enablement, Resolve. “The impact that attention has is something we should be considering. [We need to] stop being so digital about it and think about it in the short-medium-long term.”

Attention is the new currency

As the industry shifts its focus from superficial, KPI-focused metrics, attention metrics are already proven to drive better outcomes. Moving forward, they are set to become a more reliable predictor and fundamental currency for brands to understand whether a meaningful interaction results in a real business outcome.

Research shows a direct correlation between attention and business outcomes throughout the funnel – but it’s important to have a nuanced approach in how attention metrics are unpacked and used differently across the entire campaign lifecycle.

Planning tools like Adelaide’s Attention Unit (AU) are available to help advertisers understand and achieve the outcomes that matter to them, made easier by Outbrain’s Onyx platform to provide insights into moments of high attention, buy and optimize towards higher quality media placements, and give brands a clear understanding of the impact of advertising, using attention metrics.

For more highlights from Outbrain’s Captivate: the art and science of attention event, click here. And look out for part three of this series where we’ll explore what’s next for attention.

Media Measurement Brand Strategy Media Planning and Buying

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