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Attention Metrics Heralded As ‘Next Frontier’ Of Digital Ad Measurement.

Radio is new to the world of attention metrics but in digital advertising they’re being heralded as “the next frontier of digital ad measurement.” After years of focusing on a digital ad’s viewability, which measures whether the ad was seen by a human, digital advertisers are placing greater emphasis on whether the consumer noticed and absorbed the message, according to a new report from eMarketer.

With Americans bombarded with 4,000 advertising messages daily across multiple platforms, devices, and channels, marketers are placing more emphasis on whether consumers are paying attention to ads. Recognizing the need for brands to better understand the value of their media investment, dentsu in 2018 set out to define a new value system and challenge the way the ad industry trades. Working with Lumen Research, it developed the Attention Economy Project to measure which ads were actually being seen and which were being blocked. Audio wasn’t included until this year when dentsu and Lumen worked with some of the nation’s largest audio companies to expand its attention metric to include radio, podcasting, and streaming. As earlier reported by Inside Radio, the first-of-its-kind study found that audio performs better than video in grabbing people’s attention and generating brand recall.

Over in the digital ad world, attention is emerging as viewability’s successor. Over a third (36%) of U.S. buy-side ad decision-makers planned to focus at least somewhat more on attention metrics this year, according to a November 2022 survey from the Interactive Advertising Bureau. But there’s plenty of work to be done before attention metrics are as prevalent as viewability in digital ad measurement. The majority of advertisers worldwide (59.4%) are still just testing the waters, using attention metrics in some of their buys, according to DoubleVerify.

“As with anything, the power ultimately lies with advertisers. They hold the purse strings, and if enough buy-side heavyweights demand it, attention metrics could revolutionize the digital advertising landscape,” the eMarketer report says.

In a world where AI is increasingly being used to develop ad creative, attention metrics are seen as a way to steer ad dollars toward more engaging content.

But big questions loom over its potential for currency status. A lack of standardization is standing in the way of attention’s prospects of becoming the currency that advertising is bought and sold on. And there are big methodological questions around scalability and privacy compliance as the advertising industry attempts to define attention and introduce auditable standards.

Measurement providers and researchers such as Adelaide, Lumen, and Amplified Intelligence are working with agency holding companies to test attention metrics and bring them to advertisers. And advertising stakeholders are gathering in forums like The Attention Council (TAC) and the IAB’s Attention Task Force to examine and resolve major obstacles.

Now that the attention consumers pay to audio ads can be measured the same way video ads are, advertising execs see new opportunities for radio and podcasting to play a larger role in media plans. The recent dentsu-Lumen study could help convince marketers to allocate more ad dollars to a still underutilized media channel.

Jennifer Hungerbuhler, who heads Local Video and Audio Investment at dentsu Media U.S., said the agency giant’s clients are leaning into this new way of measuring the impact of advertising messages and want to learn more about it. “Having webinars like this and publishing articles is critical, because it is still relatively new,” she said on a recent webinar presented by Ad Age. Following what Hungerbuhler called an education phase, the industry will begin to integrate advertising attention data into media planning systems in what she described as a crawl-walk-run process. “This study just validates that all forms of audio generate large volumes of recall. And it is truly the best of both worlds – it has high levels of attention and efficient levels of attention,” Hungerbuhler said. “And those two together are very, very powerful. It’s going to help inform our overall comms plan as we go to market and when we're looking to put our buys together.”

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