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“Not all reach is equal” – how attention elasticity can help inform media planning

At the Future of Media event in London earlier this month, Jack Egan, Measurement and Insight, Associate Director at Finecast, argued that attention as a metric can help advertisers understand how “not all reach is equal" and even within TV, attention depends on the media platform viewers are watching. Egan was joined on a panel by Sarah Kenny, Managing Partner at Wavemaker North, who argued that, while attention can serve a useful additional metric, it will not become a universal cross-media measurement.

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“The kind of media platform that you’re running ads on is a really big driver of the level of attention you’re going to get,” said Jack Egan, Measurement and Insight Associate Director, Finecast, speaking at the Future of Media event in London earlier this month. He continued: “It all goes back to the point that not all reach is equal, and I think attention acts as a really useful quality metric to help brands and advertisers understand exactly why.”

He argued that certain channels have broader or narrower levels of ‘attention elasticity’ (the range of attention which is paid to media depending on the type of service viewers are watching) citing different attention levels for linear TV versus BVOD as an example.

Egan said: “TV has quite a broad [attention elasticity] range, whereas some of the other channels have a bit of a lower range. Understanding that helps you plan out your media and you’ll spend Upfronts a little bit more efficiently.”

He also thinks more standardisation of how companies measure attention is important to ensure the metric is as impactful as possible.

Egan was joined on a panel by Sarah Kenny, Managing Partner, Wavemaker North, Martyn Bentley, Commercial Director – UK, Audience Project, Jo Lyall, CEO – UK, BrainLabs, and Ross Sergeant, Head of Media, Asahi Europe & International.

Kennedy made the point that attention too, is not all the same. She elaborated: “As human beings we process information in different ways. We’re not always actively in market, but still absorbing advertising and signals from brands as we go about our daily lives. There’s a real difference between passive and active attention.”

She doubts that attention could ever serve as a universal cross-media measurement, given the complexities of defining the metric and what constitutes “good attention” versus “bad attention”. However, she does believe the metric represents “a step on” from delivered impressions and clicks.

Ultimately, she thinks it is important for brands to test and learn how active and passive attention work together to drive engagement, and the link between attention and different kinds of business outcomes.

Sergeant said research around attention could be very significant if it was revealed that there is little difference in outcomes for ads that receive little attention as opposed to those that receive more. He remarked: “If you can buy twice as much media with half the attention, and half the attention is two-thirds of the value of full attention, that’s clearly a better choice.”

Lyall said that making use of attention as a currency is not as important as everyone thinks it is. She warned that the debate around consistency in reach and being able to compare every channel could lead to a “lowest common denominator approach which actually doesn’t serve anyone.” She said attention could represent an example of this if people tried to treat it like a universal currency.

Away from attention and speaking broadly about ongoing efforts to develop a universal measurement, Bentley said he does not believe the industry will converge around any single measurement currency. He said: “It can’t possibly be just one number or one truth.”

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