Why attention is the metric missing from your campaigns

With brands and agencies keen to discover and understand the online behaviour of consumers, a recent roundtable with key industry figures highlighted the need to build attention and its supporting metrics into your campaigns.

Why attention is the metric missing from your campaigns

No matter how good your content is, if consumers aren’t paying attention to it, it’s wallpaper. But what makes consumers notice your brand and pay attention to it, as they each navigate their own ever-changing digital maze? 

With the huge changes the market has undergone over the last twelve months, this question has never been more urgent. Not only do brands have to contend with the known challenge of capturing attention in an oversaturated market, but they also have to figure out how to make their communications engaging and empathetic in a time when most consumers are struggling. Brands must find new ways to connect under lockdown’s new highly unusual conditions.

To offer advice on how to effectively build attention into your campaigns and campaign metrics — now and in the future — a virtual roundtable was hosted with top industry experts. The panel featured Stacey Delaney, UK Country Manager at Taboola; Jo Arden, Chief Strategy Officer at Publicis; Amelia Torode, Founder at the Fawnbrake Collective; and Marisa Thomas, Head of Marketing at Everpress. The panel was moderated by Suzanne Bidlake, Campaign’s commercial editor. 

Here are five lessons that emerged from the discussion:

1. Refresh old tactics for a savvier consumer and the new normal
Although it’s true that brands are competing for consumers’ attention more than ever before, those brands that think carefully about their creative and placement strategy actually have a better shot at capturing attention now than ever before. “We know where everyone is,” said Stacey Delaney of Taboola, “they’re at home, in front of their screens and looking for something to do. We have to acknowledge that things such as using pop-up ads aren’t going to work anymore. The consumer is more advanced now and more critical of this type of thing. Taboola and Nielsen recently did an eye-tracking study to see how people respond to different ad formats. One of the things we found was that unskippable videos, such as pre-rolls, perform around 25% less well in getting consumer attention than something which appears in a feed or below an article. That has big implications for brand recall and other metrics. It needs to feed through to campaign planning and media spend.” 

2. Respect people’s time and priorities when considering ad placement
“We have to respect people’s time,” said Jo Arden of Publicis, “particularly when they are on a mission. If we interrupt someone while they’re checking the weather or doing their shopping, that will not go down well and won’t help the campaign hit its targets.” Arden went on to make the point that, “many people are now doing more things online which they weren’t before the pandemic. For some demographics, such as older people, this characterises almost their entire online experience at the moment. Advertisers have to display empathy when they interrupt users’ activities with their content and being aware of what form those interruptions take is more important now than ever.” 

3. Be useful within the moment
Marisa Thomas of Everpress stressed the importance of contextual relevance. “Sometimes,” she explained, “the metrics may give the impression that the content is reaching the right people. But they may not tell you how those people perceive the content or respond to it. This takes in both the placement of the ad and its content. We need to go beyond just broadcasting brand messages to make our ads. We need to make our content key to whatever the users are trying to achieve in that moment or that context.” 

4. Follow the ‘Hook, Hero, Headline’ formula to capture attention and engage audiences
“In a deafening sea of brand noise,'' said Amelia Torode of Fawnbrake Collective, “the way to cut through — yes, you need smart targeting and algorithms — is imagination. At Fawnbrake, we think of this in terms of “hook, hero and headline”. We need to ask ourselves, what is the hook with which we’re trying to attract the reader or viewer? For us, when we talk about the campaign hero, we’re thinking of the power of personal. Why would you share something? Often, it’s because it makes you look in the know, funny, insightful or good in some other way. Finally, we focus on the headline. It has to be really clear about what the piece of communication is trying to say.” 

5. Why brands and agencies need to pay more attention to attention, and less to viewability
No marketer doesn’t want to get attention,” Stacey Delaney of Taboola explained. “A classic example of this is viewability.  If your video is unskippable, or even hard to skip, your viewability measure simply tells you who could have responded to your advert. You don’t know if they did. The key thing is to ask if the placement, time and content you’re using will elicit the response you want. In our pursuit of viewability, we sometimes lose sight of this.”

As user behaviour changes online, so does the need to integrate attention metrics into each campaign. The aim of uncovering the level of engagement from audiences via ad units has always been a tough proposition. However, Taboola has focused on an area that’s critical in the era of mass online consumption, and where consumers' attention spans will get smaller the bigger the market gets. 

Catch the roundtable on-demand and find out more here.