The attention economy 101: Essential guide from Playground xyz

eye tracking_Image by Tumisu from Pixabay

The attention economy should be top of every brand’s hit list, because, in today’s information age, where digital advertising is concerned, it’s not enough for brands to ‘spray and pray’ in the hope of attracting potential customers.

So says Rob Hall, CEO at martech attention specialist Playground xyz, who gives us a quick insight into the growth and importance of the attention economy in an increasingly noisy digital world… 

Rob Hall playground xyz
Rob Hall, CEO, Playground XYZ

Consumers in the 1970s, it has been estimated, were exposed to around 500 ads a day, compared to about 5,000 a day in 2007. Today, consumers are served up to 10,000 ads a day, meaning it’s even less likely they will notice your ad. 

And that’s where the attention economy – a concept that has been growing over the last ten years across the globe – comes in.

The “attention economy” refers to the notion that human attention is a commodity – the limited resource each individual has available to engage with a particular piece of information at a given time. And just like other commodities, it can be traded. Attracting – and retaining – an audience’s attention is the currency of today’s online advertising.

How do you measure attention?

Over the past few decades, the ad industry has relied on a variety of metrics as proxies for attention. 

However, while popular these don’t measure actual attention but rather whether an ad is on screen (Viewability) or how long it’s on screen for (Time in View). 

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Measuring time: How do you measure attention in the digital economy.

Or they measure attention but it’s too sparse (as is the case of Click Through Rate).

The new wave of true attention signals are different, offering a clear picture of exactly how long an ad is actually looked.

To accurately measure how much attention an ad gets, these new metrics consider the following aspects in various ways:

Eye-tracking data: Advertisers can test creatives using eye-tracking cameras that trace the path of a user’s eyes across the screen.

This process used to rely on expensive equipment but it’s now possible to use the camera on mobile devices.

As an advertiser, these types of tests can help you gauge whether customers will pay attention to a given ad, and predict what type of content will be most effective.

On-screen activity: While an ad is in view, you can track other activities such as the cursor position (on a desktop), scroll rate/path, and touch rate (on touchscreen devices). For video ads, you can also track how often customers play it with audio versus without.

These factors have been used to measure attention for a good number of years but, until recently, it was only applicable in lab tests or limited-size panels. 

The key to these factors being applied across wider, in-market campaigns is AI.

By using the data gathered from panels and research to train AI, the new wave of attention metrics can accurately measure and predict consumer attention on every ad impression served – and all in a completely privacy-safe way.

playground_xyz_ attention_economy_UpToSpeed1
Attention seekers: Playground XYZ has top tips for brands seeking an edge in the attention economy.

Attention-leveraging tips for brands

Gaining your audience’s attention is tougher than ever in today’s highly competitive advertising environment but attention metrics offer an exciting, powerful way to get ahead.

Here are a few tips to help make the most of your attention metrics.

  • Begin testing now: Attention metrics are quickly becoming integral to many brands’ digital campaigns but there’s a chance to get ahead and reap maximum reward while they’re still relatively new. There are a wealth of attention solutions now available so brands should be testing which are right for them and their ad strategies.
  • Explore how attention can support other approaches: Attention has been shown to be incredibly powerful as a way to optimise campaigns as they’re delivered. However, it’s also demonstrated itself as a potential catalyst for improved performance when fused with other approaches. For instance, recent research from Playground has shown attention can supercharge contextual targeting for incredible results.
  • Test and tailor your ad creative: An ad’s creative can differ depending on its message and audience, so tailoring it based on the kind of attention you’re looking for with each is important. Aspects to consider include colour scheme, placement, typography, animation, keeping visual path in mind (e.g. Z-shape versus F-shape), and the Rule of Thirds. With the right ad creative, you can maximise the attention of your audience against growing amounts of noise.

Considering each of these elements is essential if you are to maximise the success of your ads and make the most of the opportunity attention technologies present; the opportunity for your ad to become one of the relatively few your customers engage with, rather than the many thousands they view but don’t truly see.