How to Link Attention to Brand Performance


By Dominic Woolfe, UK CEO, Azerion

As an increasingly evolving industry, every few years digital advertisers come up with a  new metric which promises to  change how campaigns are measured.  For some time now the go-to metrics have been clicks, dwell time and viewability – but it has become increasingly apparent that these metrics are not fully fit for purpose. This is either because they can be easily manipulated or are difficult to actually pin down. Now there is a new metric that is taking the limelight and being hailed as the next big thing: attention.

Of course, the uncomfortable truth is that digital advertising is  always looking for the next shiny thing to play with. While attention is an important metric, just as clicks and viewability are, it’s important that we are not guilty of overselling its value or misrepresenting how it drives campaign performance.

Undeniably, there’s a strong relationship between attention and campaign performance, and certainly it makes a better case than clicks or viewability. But when something gets so much focus, it’s never long before the bad actors who game the system develop something that delivers more  attention. On top of this, there is also the risk that marketers, desperate for attention, return to intrusive tactics like unclosable ads, pop ups or overlays.

A Focus on User Experience

While these options might top the attention charts, they fail to consider the user experience – and they certainly don’t produce the quality attention that actually drives brand performance. If this happens it’s likely to send us back to the dark ages of digital advertising – and none of us want that. We need to have learned our lessons of the past and evolve attention measurement into something a bit more sustainable and more importantly useful.

Everyone will obsess on whether one format gets more absolute attention than the other but we need to dig a little deeper. In a recent study, consumers’ natural gaze patterns were leveraged to see where attention is paid across formats. This way of harnessing attention helps creatives to build better campaigns , because they can genuinely assess  performance levels.

It’s also been shown that impulse purchase advertisers with a strong legacy of brand advertising and distinctive brand assets don’t need much attention to drive recall or boost purchase propensity. In comparison, premium or considered purchase brands do need to leverage attention more to get a similar return.

Fortunately, we’re beginning to understand the levers that we can use to drive attention and how that can impact on campaign and brand performance.

1. Creative

The marketing and advertising industry has known for many years that creative is one of the central keys to unlocking engagement and attention. This is apparent from the lengths companies go to build brands in traditional channels like TV. Indeed, this research from Nielsen clearly 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, where digital has suffered is that it is too often seen as the poor relative, with content simply being chopped up for digital channels and creativity being overlooked in favour of speed and volume within ad budgets.

2. Insight

Over the past few years, consumer behaviour has been transformed by not just the pandemic but also a growing focus on data privacy. This means that understanding your target audience and how they interact with your brand, through both quantitative and qualitative insight, has never been more important. Having this data provides the foundations from which to inform creativity and media placement so that you can align campaigns with these changing behaviours and drive stronger engagement in your ads.

 3. Technology

There is growing pressure on marketers to produce campaigns that work harder and produce provable results. 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.

4. 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.

5. Measurement

However, possibly the most fundamental part of driving attention is credible, independent measurement that allows marketers to clearly show how attention has a demonstrable effect on brand 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 coming under much tighter scrutiny.

By ensuring these five areas are working together in harmony, marketers and advertisers can ensure that they are able to harness the power of attention within their campaigns.