There's a lot of interest in attention, yet tracking it is no easy task. Attention metrics require openess and transparency, and should be underpinned by true data, if they are to become an established media currency, says Emma Jowett, VP of Sales, Northern Europe, Integral Ad Science (IAS).

Super Bowl LVIII was watched by a record-breaking 123.4 million viewers – making it the most watched programme of all time. If you aired a Super Bowl advert you would know whether it was a hit because people would either be talking about it, or they wouldn't. The average advertiser however does not have a Super Bowl-level budget and therefore needs a sure-fire method of knowing how effective their creative is. This is where attention comes in. Being able to effectively assess whether a campaign cuts through can help to give any brand an edge, and tell you whether your story is working or not.

However, while there is a great deal of noise around attention, many brands are still evaluating how attention metrics sit within or alongside their more established media currencies. While it's clear the future of advertising will be traded on these measures, there is, as of yet, little official industry-wide consensus on exactly what attention looks like.

This is understandable. Attention is no easy thing to track and even seemingly simple metrics can take a while to become an embedded part of the marketer's toolkit – viewability, for example, took a while to become a staple for marketers.

While the complexity of attention presents different issues and with 83% of media experts believing that it’s important for their company to have an attention strategy, it's clear that those who do not start to explore the possibilities of attention risk being left behind.

What makes up attention

The attention measurement landscape can be overwhelming. A vast array of metrics have flooded the market in recent years all attempting to distil the complex nature of attention down into a measurable form. While it can be tempting to wait for an industry-wide definition of attention to be codified by an industry body, the truth is that the advertising industry is already reaching a consensus on what effective attention measurement looks like.

Slimming down the wealth of metrics, there are three core signals that a majority of the industry agree on: the visibility of an ad, the situation it is in and the interaction it gains from audiences.


For all players in the advertising ecosystem, the visibility of an ad is the top priority when measuring attention, with 88% of media experts stating it was important. Visibility signals measure the validity of the impressions being served and are created from three key metrics: viewability, time-in-view, and full screen.

It comes as no surprise that if an advertisement is not visible, then consumers won't pay attention to it. Visibility is more than just viewability however. There is a sweet spot for time-in-view, for example, with ads that appear in audience vision for around 3–10 seconds more likely to drive incremental sales and ROI.


Situation is the next key set of signals, according to 80% of industry experts. The environment in which an ad is served impacts whether it will catch the eye of a consumer. Ad density, page orientation, brand suitability and contextual relevance are all metrics that build a picture of the situation of an ad.

Ultimately, what these metrics prove is that quality advertising – advertising that is brand safe, highly relevant to the environment, and not crowded out by other ads – directly drives not only attention, but direct results. For example, ads in contextually relevant environments were four times more memorable to consumers compared to out-of-context ads, while also driving purchase intent by 14%.


The final piece of the puzzle when it comes to attention is interaction. In order to build a true picture of attention however, marketers cannot simply focus on clicks alone. Instead sophisticated metrics such as scroll, volume and video plays or pauses can be used. The effectiveness of interaction also depends on the format used – interaction with display ads, for example, more strongly correlates with results than video ads.

Bringing science to the art of advertising

The complexity of attention means that finding a single metric that effectively measures it is unlikely. Instead, by using this blend of signals, marketers can start to build up a picture of how their campaigns drive attention.

Attention metrics can bridge the gap between the science and art of advertising. By building a picture of consumer attention, marketers will be able to more effectively understand how their storytelling is driving consumer action. When combined with new measurement strategies such as eyeball tracking, brands will be able to maximise the potential of all their campaigns, ensuring their most stand-out creative is utilised to its fullest extent.

If attention is to become a genuinely impactful metric, and not another fluffy number that does little to drive true results, transparency will be key. Only through openness and transparency will attention metrics become effectively underpinned by true data and outcomes, making them a valuable tool for all.

In a world with an ever-increasing number of distractions, the importance of attention measurement cannot be overstated. While seemingly a complex and multifaceted subject, the truth is that marketers can already start to drive ROI through the effective use of attention metrics. With many in the industry already united behind the importance of visibility, situation, and interaction signals in measuring attention, marketers do not need to wait to start measuring attention.