CMOs: Are You Paying Attention To Attention?

Columnist Brian Rigney discusses why measuring the success of a campaign is less about whether people visit and more about how long they visit.

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Measuring campaign performance against frequency of page views and impressions has long been the standard success (and value) metric for brands and advertisers. It’s a simple linear view that links a form of consumer engagement to ROI.

Yet today’s modern marketers realize that measuring the success of a campaign is less about if people visit and more about how long they visit.

It isn’t about measuring clicks. More importantly, it is about measuring engagement — the time people spend with digital experiences and the ways they interact with them.

Attention Metrics

What are attention metrics? Put simply, attention metrics represent recent efforts by marketers to find a more meaningful way to gauge how long a brand is holding a consumer’s attention and the quality of that engagement.

They expand the focus from just the quantity of visits or clicks to the quality of those engagements and the depth to which content is consumed.

Online advertisers and marketers, in a quest to better quantify the value of their campaigns, are studying the attention that their creative digital experiences get in increasing detail.

The recent Ad Age Digital Conference made attention metrics a key focus of its event, where discussion focused on the shift in conventional thinking from frequency and impressions to viewability and time and what that means from a campaign ROI perspective.

“There are two things that are proven to show recall recognition,” said Tony Haile, CEO of Chartbeat and the originator of the term “attention metrics,” speaking on a panel addressing the topic.

“One is the quality of the creative. The second is the amount of time that ad accrues. Price on that time, and attention becomes a way for marketers to be more effective and for publishers to have engaging content. The more they can capture in view, the more that ad is worth. It’s a sustainable business model going forward.”

In this view, the click (the standard way to measure engagement) is an ambiguous signal. Consumers may click on something, but do they actually give the destination content any attention?

By measuring attention minutes, publishers are able to put a figure (and value) on engaged time, something that has eluded the advertising industry since the inception of the internet.

Meaningful Metrics

It isn’t just agencies and marketing technology vendors that are championing the jumping on the attention metrics bandwagon, however. Brands also see a real value in having these insights.

Dave Coletti, vice president of digital media research and analytics at ESPN, stated in an ESPN FrontRow interview, “Ultimately, we’re in the business of capturing the time and attention of sports fans. Our goal is to reach as many of them as possible, reach them as often as possible and keep them engaged for as long as we can.”

In this view, effective measurement (and therefore optimization) can be drilled down and valued against the tiny capsules of attention that a consumer spends actually looking at an ad, a website or any digital experience. There are, of course, a few moving parts to making viewability work in practice.

The Financial Times’, for example, has now moved beyond a pilot scheme with 10 brands that shifts an advertisement’s position on screen and rotates it according to preset parameters, guaranteeing 100 percent viewability for a minimum of five seconds. With more complex creative executions, it has recorded the actual viewability results bump up to 15–20 seconds.

Now, the Financial Times can report on how long each impression has been viewed and derive a figure on the duration of exposure for an entire campaign. The pilot generated over $1 million in revenue and an uplift in brand recognition and association.

Popular website Upworthy also made the shift to tracking the attention of its visitors. It quantifies attention through a metric it calls “attention minutes.”

Attention minutes are calculated by the analysis of both total attention on-site for various time frames, as well as total attention per piece, which measures how many people watch or read something on Upworthy and how long they interact with it.

These brands are paving the way to more meaningful metrics, and there are lessons to be learned from these new approaches to measuring marketing success in the age of big data and digital experiences.

Through these new attention metrics, both The Financial Times and Upworthy are discovering critical insights to answer the burning question that all marketers ask themselves: “Do they like us?”

Now, perhaps they need to be asking themselves instead: “Are we ready for that answer?”

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Brian Rigney
As Zmags’ CEO, Brian Rigney has over twenty years’ experience leading high performing, entrepreneurial teams in launching new businesses and bringing innovative new products to market. Prior to Zmags, Brian was VP sales & biz dev for SaaS-based digital gift card company CashStar, where he led the effort to secure top tier clients and channel partners including Home Depot, GAP, Williams Sonoma, CVS/pharmacy, Starbucks, Best Buy, TJX Companies, Groupon, Dell, The Container Store, JPMorgan Chase, Capital One and more than 250 other leading brands.

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