Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Understanding the levers that link attention to brand performance

by Dominic Woolfe, CEO, UK, Azerion

The digital ad industry has been looking for an alternative to the traditional metrics of clicks and viewability for a long time. The  latest thing to get the industry excited is ‘attention’. 

While it does offer a lot of potential, we cannot  get carried away with believing attention is a simple solution to advertisers’ and marketers’ needs in the ever-changing digital world we now live in. We’re still a long way from being able to utilise attention in the most effective way, because there are still no standard definitions as to what it is or how it  impacts brand awareness. 

With so much still to be done in this area, the whole industry is going to have to work together. Fortunately, one thing that the deprecation of third-party cookies has brought to the industry is an openness to thinking in new ways, and an increased willingness to collaborate with each other.

Creativity matters

So, let’s start with the things we do know.

We’ve long known that creative is the key to unlocking engagement and attention in our target audiences. You just need to look at the lengths advertisers go to to build their brands in traditional “above the line” channels. If you needed further convincing, research by Nielsen shows that creativity accounts for 47% of any sales uplift achieved from a campaign. On top of this, placing that creative in relevant premium environments has proven to drive brand awareness and consumer recall by achieving 20 times the attention of standard display ads.

Sadly, however, digital has been seen as the poor relative, with content often being repurposed (not always well) for digital channels, and creativity often playing second fiddle to speed and volume when it comes to ad spend. So, one of the secrets to unlocking the power of attention within digital advertising boils down to being able to convince brands to invest in it.

Grabbing the attention 

For attention to be seen as a valuable advertising mechanic, the concept of actually getting that attention is just the start. We’ve talked already about the power of creative but there are other interlinking areas that must work together to enable marketers, advertisers and, indeed, publishers to be able to fully take advantage of attention and navigate this changing climate:

Insight: Thanks to the pandemic and a growing focus on data privacy, over the past two years a lot has changed in terms of what consumers expect and how they interact with brands. This means that understanding your target audience through both quantitative and qualitative insight creates a strong foundation from which to inform creativity and media placement so that you can align campaigns with these changing behaviours.

Technology: While ad budgets may be increasing, there is also growing pressure for campaigns to have to work harder to perform in the current climate – getting attention and engagement with target audiences is becoming harder as they become more discerning. Using appropriate ad technology can be crucial in helping to unlock efficiencies when it comes to audience targeting (against behaviour/data/context), programmatic buying and campaign delivery. 

Content and Context: The attention paid to an ad is directly enhanced by the content and viewing experience that is around it. Today, quality and relevancy matter more than ever to consumers and can help to build engagement as well as brand trust.

Measurement: Probably the most fundamental part of the attention equation is the need to provide credible, independent measurement that shows attention has a demonstrable effect on both brand and performance. This has to be the minimum expectation in understanding the effectiveness of a campaign and is crucial at a time when the link between brand and performance advertising is getting increasingly close and coming under closer scrutiny.

Working in harmony

There needs to be a standard and well-defined way to assess this impact so that it can be woven into the fabric of campaign planning and execution. Clearly there is little value to attention if the ad creative and media placement hasn’t been aligned to the changing consumer behaviour of the audience? If it’s delivered inefficiently by poor technology? Or if the value of the attention is not understood or measured effectively. 

Attention certainly has the potential to drive change in our sector. However, only by working together to ensure creative, insight, technology, context, and measurement are working in harmony will the digital ad industry be able to build out an attention economy that can power the digital advertising space.

*Azerion is a client of Bluestripe Communications, owned by Bluestripe Group, owner of NDA