Captured Clicks, Captured Minds: Unpacking the Currency of Attention in Ad Tech

We investigate the hottest new metric on the ad tech block - attention. 

In an increasingly distracted world, one resource stands as increasingly scarce: human attention. The digital age has transformed many aspects of our lives, but perhaps one of the most coveted commodities to emerge from this transformation is our collective focus. Once confined to billboards and TV spots, advertisers now have a playground of endless digital real estate to capture the eye – be it through a social media feed, a search engine result, or an in-app advertisement. As the battle for this intangible asset intensifies, the ad tech industry has evolved to become the front line, adopting technologies and strategies to measure and monetise attention with unparalleled precision. 

We explore the role of attention metrics in the ad tech industry, shedding light on how utilising the effective duality of media science and human creativity will be pivotal in creating the perfect recipe for capturing attention.

The Economy of Attention Metrics

In an increasingly fragmented digital ecosystem, constructing a unified consumer view is imperative for optimising media strategy – research shows a direct correlation between attention and outcomes. Attention metrics – quantifiable KPIs like click-through rates (CTR), dwell time, and scroll depth – serve as pivotal data points in this unification process. These metrics can be ingested and analysed through sophisticated Data Management Platforms, which apply AI to aggregate and interpret data from disparate sources such as Demand-Side Platforms (DSPs), Supply-Side Platforms (SSPs), Customer Relationship Management systems (CRMs), and even Internet of Things (IoT) devices. This data set offers a holistic view of consumer behaviour, including attention spans across different media formats and platforms. By utilising these attention-based insights, media strategists can employ programmatic real-time bidding processes more effectively, and even allocate advertising spend more efficiently.

Attention metrics can be integrated into attribution models to better understand the customer journey across multiple touchpoints, thereby refining overall media strategy. In essence, attention metrics serve as both a linchpin and a catalyst in the ad tech ecosystem, enabling a more technical and data-driven approach to consumer engagement and media spend optimisation.

Keeping it Creative

Within digital advertising strategies, creativity serves as the qualitative counterpart to the quantitative data collected through attention metrics. While numbers can provide insights into user behaviour and engagement levels, it's the creative execution that turns those insights into meaningful consumer experiences. The role of creativity extends from the conception of an advertising campaign to its final delivery, influencing factors like ad design, message crafting, and the overall storytelling approach.

The advent of dynamic creative optimisation (DCO) technologies allows advertisers to adapt creative elements in real-time based on user data. For example, if an ad isn't performing well in terms of click-through rates or dwell time, the creative components such as headlines, images, or calls-to-action can be automatically adjusted to better capture attention. This interplay between creativity and technology enables a more adaptive and responsive digital advertising strategy.

Digital advertising isn't confined to just visual and text elements, especially as the landscape continuously evolves. With advancements in technology, advertisers are exploring interactive ads, augmented reality experiences, and even gamified ad formats to engage users. AR ads offer interactive experiences that go beyond the two-dimensional screen, allowing users to engage with products or features in a simulated real-world context. This could potentially increase both dwell time and emotional engagement, leading to more effective campaigns. Similarly, gamified ads aim to turn the viewing experience into an interactive challenge or story, thereby heightening user engagement and retention. These creative endeavours aim to convert passive attention – measured by metrics like viewability – into active engagement, which could be gauged by more nuanced metrics like interaction rate or completion rate for video ads.

Capitalising on a new currency for advertisers

Within the industry, there is a discernible shift toward more granular and holistic measures of attention, supported by advancements in technology. While traditional attention metrics like click-through rates and viewability continue to be relevant, there's a growing emphasis on "Quality of Attention" metrics as we look towards the future of attention. 

"Shifting the focus to Attention from Viewability is THE game-changing opportunity that levels the playing field for advertisers. An advertiser's success is based on benchmarks that only tell part of the story. People can only pay attention to one thing at a time, so if an ad on a screen competes with content people enjoy, the ad will lose. Likewise, if allowed to skip, consumers will skip. These might be successes for the publisher, but the advertiser loses with these engagements. But when attention is factored in, advertisers can ensure they get quality views and attentive seconds. The in-app opportunity is ripe for these types of engagements, and the market is just starting to wake up to the brand-building opportunities they present."

- Mark Slade, VP of brand marketing and managing director of brand partnerships (UK, DE, FR), Digital Turbine

Don’t miss out on hearing from Digital Turbine and many more experts on the future of attention at the ExchangeWireLIVE Attention Event.