Marketers could benefit from using attention as a unit of trade when buying media, instead of relying on the opportunity or potential to view an ad.

Karen Nelson-Field, founder/CEO of measurement company Amplified Intelligence, discussed this subject in a session on Lions Live, a digital-content platform from Cannes Lions (a sister company of WARC).

“At the moment, media is sold on opportunity or potential to view, rather than whether someone has actually seen the ad or not. As it turns out, many don’t see it, yet advertisers still pay,” she said. (A full video of her session is available here. WARC subscribers can access a summary here.)

Attention-based indicators have an obvious advantage in that “simply knowing if someone is present and whether they are looking at advertising is light years ahead of the current impressions system,” she added.

Given the entrenched nature of legacy indicators, Nelson-Field – who guest edited the recent WARC Guide to Planning for Attention – conceded that the adoption of attention-based metrics will require educating marketers.

“If we’re asking advertisers to move towards an attention economy, and away from traditional buying metrics, we need to demonstrate how attention is different from other measures,” Nelson-Field argued.

The major difference between the legacy of recall and the new standard of attention, she explained, is that “high, sustained, undivided attention is not typical of how humans interact with advertising.

“High attention is still very, very valuable. But the biggest uplift in sales performance actually comes from low-attention processing, which is something that … recall can’t measure.”

A metric that can be attached to this proposition, however, is as follows: “The relationship between visual attention and incremental brand choice is known as STAS – or short-term advertising strength,” said Nelson-Field.

“Basically, STAS incorporates a market share baseline and measures sales uplift over normal market performance,” she continued.

Nelson-Field’s research has found that attention is clearly related to sales – with low-attention processing yielding greater value than is often assumed.

The uplift in sales impact, in fact, is significant when viewers shift from a pre-attentive state to low attention, according to her analysis. And Nelson-Field believes such results are gaining traction in the industry.

“Human attention as a measure of ad effectiveness is fast becoming a unit of trade,” she said, with a critical further point of endorsement: “Capital investment is starting to flow” to the practice.

Sourced from Cannes Lions, WARC