Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Here’s a recessionary media tip: stop buying ads that will get ignored

By Michael Follett, Managing Director, Lumen 

In recessionary (and inflationary) times, everybody learns one lesson fast: every pound we spend today suddenly counts for more than the one we spent yesterday. The easy days of ‘speculating to accumulate’, of ‘taking a risk to learn something new’, are replaced with the harder-nosed realities of immediate economic efficiency. How will this investment wash its face? .

So here’s a money saving tip for all advertisers: stop buying ads that don’t get seen. The most expensive ad that you’ll ever buy is one that no one looks at. All that effort, all that money: it’s worth nothing if your ad is ignored.

And, on the other side of that coin, here’s a lesson for quality publishers and format owners: get paid for the ads that get seen. Justify the value you create by the attention you actually deliver.

Ads can only work if they get attention. But just because people have the opportunity to see an ad does not mean that they will, in fact, look at it. People are very good at avoiding ads in general: by Lumen’s count, around 35% of all ‘viewable’ programmatic display ads are completely ignored. But when people do look at the ads, they work well. Understanding where and when people let their guard down and engage with advertising has never been a more pressing issue. 

So at a time when wastage in media investment is more painful than ever, advertisers can all make a saving by not spending money on ads that get ignored.

Doing the same with less, doing better with the same

By using attention data, and letting it guide them to better-performing ads, advertisers can take the money saved from buying ads on bad websites and either keep the money  – achieving the same result as before, but with less investment – or reinvest it in ads on good websites – boosting attention, recall and sales on the same budget. Either way, attention data can help improve ROAS and ROI.

Lumen’s work in the science of attention, based on eye tracking at scale across TV, desktop and mobile, has unearthed numerous insights into the reality of ad consumption. And given that consumers’ default reaction to many ads is to ignore them entirely, it is increasingly clear that genuine attention insights are ones no advertiser can really afford to be without.

At the basic level, we know that just because an ad was technically viewable, doesn’t mean it was viewed; and that genuine attention – not just viewability – drives outcomes.

We also know that there are enormous variations in the level of attention to ads across different media, different formats and different types of content. In television alone, there are huge gulfs in attention levels between shows, channels and dayparts – and we see the same for desktop and mobile.

All advertising is not the same

Many factors influence the amount of attention an ad is likely to receive, including the type of device, the type and size of the ad; the viewable time and the percentage of the ad that was in view; the domain, the ad position, the amount of clutter on the screen.

At a time when value for money is critical, advertisers can use an attention model like ours to combine the ‘attentive seconds per 000’ a given ad receives in a particular place at a particular time, with the ‘cost per 000’ of buying that media, in order to calculate the true cost of that attention.

Some tips for those seeking to buy high-attention ads:

·      Go for ‘slow media’ – media that people don’t scroll past quickly, but that they actually engage with. More time spent with the article usually correlates with more time spent with the advertising.

·      Go for premium news brand sites. More interesting stories mean slower scroll speeds. Rich content and slow media equals high attention.

·      Go for ads that are big enough to be noticed. Tiny ads achieve high levels of ‘technical’ viewability but they are also very easy to ignore. Buy ads that are unmissably big. 

And some broader advice:

·      Link to outcomes. Advertisers will know the importance of linking to outcomes – particularly now, when recessionary pressures inevitably mean that media will have to be more accountable

·      Measured attention using the Lumen LAMP tag – a verification tag appended to campaign creative

·      Once they have done this, they can link their attention data to outcomes via brand lift studies from the likes of first-party data platform Dynata and sales lift studies from global analytics and data providers such as IRI.

·      Treat each campaign as an experiment: what did we learn from this investment? What can we do better next time?

Campaigns that take no account of all we now know about attention are, in effect, money poured straight down the drain.

In a tough economic climate, when efficiency and effectiveness matter more than ever, no brand can afford such waste. Those that learn the principles of attention won’t have to.