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How to make an impact with your ads, and why most attention metrics should be ignored
December 13, 2021
Dominic Tillson, marketing director of high impact brand advertising specialist Inskin Media, and Mike Follett, managing director of Lumen Research, sit down with The Digital Voice to discuss how their partnership is measuring attention with accuracy and honesty, and why high impact is the best advertising format for achieving stellar attention metrics.
The industry is increasingly recognizing attention as an accurate, meaningful way of measuring consumer engagement in digital advertising, but is it fair to say that not all attention metrics are equal?
Dominic Tillson [DT]: I think that’s absolutely fair. The reality is that everyone now agrees that attention is important, but not everyone has the ability to actually measure it. So we see people creating proxies for attention - things like mouse motion and viewability, combined with scroll speed - that kind of thing. It tends to focus on trying to guess the behaviour of the human eye, whereas Lumen’s data is based on tracking the eye itself, which is really the only way to measure attention.
Mike Follett [MF]: What we have found is that other attention metrics often give precisely the wrong information. For instance, there's actually a negative correlation between mouse location and where the eyes look. As one of our competitors, Karen Nelson-Field, founder of Amplified Intelligence, has it, if you want to count attention you need to count humans. She is absolutely right, especially because things like mouse motion can be faked by bots, and that lets the fraudsters back in.
So what does an attention metric based on real human attention tell us about the value of high impact advertising in gaining consumer attention?
MF: What we have found is that attention to advertising can be predicted, to some extent. And the first key factor in achieving attention is physical size: how much of the screen does an ad take up? Bigger really is better, and high impact offers significant size. Viewable time - how long people have to see the ad - also makes a big difference. And again, this is one of the reasons why high impact formats like Inskin’s Pageskin get a large amount of attention, because they are presented to the viewer for a significant time – usually about a minute.
The third factor is clutter. High impact formats tend to be served solus, and get tons of attention as a result. Fourthly, if people are engaged in quality content adjacent to these units, they’re more likely to look at the ad, and high impact agencies are more likely to partner with premium publishers where that is the case. And finally, high impact ads that use exciting, emotional creative stand a much better chance of engaging the consumer.
For clients that are new to high impact, what can you tell them about getting the best out of such formats?
DT: An ad’s creative is extremely important. Nielsen ran a big study that shows creativity drives nearly half of a campaign’s effectiveness. And yet, in the digital world, it’s often the least considered part of ad delivery. Inskin has its own in-house design team, for clients that need a hand to leverage their creative assets, and we’re always pushing the boundaries to optimise the consumer experience.
Keeping it simple is important, and often less is more. A lot of brands think, well, we’ve got all this space, we can say a lot of things, but in fact a simple message tends to work best, and you can make a simple creative work harder by using animation or parallax effects as the user scrolls down the page, without intruding on UX. This arrests the eye in a way that leaves the consumer feeling positive about both the publisher and advertiser. That's where high impact formats allow you to work with great content, and provide an experience that actually encourages long-term brand building.
We have also put a lot of work into making our formats responsive, so that a campaign's creative will look and perform equally well in terms of sophistication on both small and large screens, providing an experience that ticks all the boxes from a campaign objective point of view.
MF: The best format owners know that success is when people actually engage with the ads, so you're not simply selling a format and load of pixels: you're selling engagement and an experience. Lumen’s research with Inskin has shown that some high impact formats generate 20x more attention than standard display ads. People sometimes say it's not how many impressions you buy that counts, but the impression you make, and this is why both media and creative are so wildly important.
And finally, are advertisers taking these messages on board and absorbing them as part of their general media wisdom?
DT: Where we’re seeing the best results is where we get to engage with creative agencies and clients as part of the build process. And I think developing those partnerships has helped achieve some of our biggest campaign successes, with the likes of Nike, Under Armour and Scotch & Soda. We have enough evidence, thanks to working with Mike and Lumen, to persuade them that a different approach could drive better, and longer term performance.
MF: Ultimately, no one has to look at your ads; it is up to you to make it worth their while. I think there's an interesting metaphor built into the grammar of attention: you pay attention and you spend time. There is a transactional element here. Attention is time consumers will never get back, so for the short period of time you have their awareness, you must make it worth their while.
You can give yourself the best chance of engaging with consumers by buying a big ad that's on-screen for a long time, in a solus position, but you must have creative that is worth looking at. Advertising inventory may pretend to be infinite, but attention is very definitely finite.