The attention economy 101: What to look for in an attention tech partner

The Attention Economy is fast becoming THE critical metric now being sought out by brands and those who market them.

In the second of our series looking into how to get the edge on all things ‘attention’, Rob Hall, CEO, Playground xyz, gives his industry insight on how to find the perfect tech partner to drive the attention strategy forward…

Rob Hall playground xyz
Rob Hall, CEO, Playground XYZ

In our last post, we covered the basics of the 2022 media buzzword: attention. 

As more and more marketers adopt attention metrics in some form, the industry as a whole is becoming more aware of the benefits they offer. 

The Attention Council (formed with the objective of demonstrating high-attention experiences have the most impact for brands) has attracted a number of household names including British Gas, BT, Electrolux, L’Oréal, Mars, Microsoft, Reckitt Benckiser, Target and Tesco. 

Meanwhile, publishers, ad servers and vendors are focusing the spotlight on high-impact ad inventory, and innovative measurement and optimisation solutions.

The attention revolution faces a problem, however. Some players continue to vouch for proxy-based attention metrics, such as viewability and time in view, arguing that if an ad is in view for a certain amount of time, then it should follow that the customer is paying attention to the content. 

But, as anyone who has browsed a web page knows, this just isn’t likely to be true. How many ads do you think you’ve had the opportunity to see today? And how many do you think you actually looked at?

So, what should advertisers look out for when choosing an attention technology partner? 

Eye gaze-based data

The real power of attention solutions lies in gaze-based attention metrics, which feature some element of real human eye-tracking data in their methodology. 

Attention platforms which include real eye-gaze data, from ongoing opt-in panels, can then use it to train advanced AI models capable of scaling attention measurement across live campaigns. 

Against other ‘solutions’ which rely on proxy metrics, or historical norms and averages, the superiority of gaze-based attention is clear. 

attention-in-the-eyes_Image by Sly from Pixabay
The eyes have it: Attention gaze-based data is key.

Only by including real eye-gaze data can an attention signal function as a user-based feedback loop, showing exactly how well your ad is resonating with your audience. 

With attention being such a hot topic and many companies looking to seize the opportunity, advertisers are at risk of using sub-par solutions that deliver poor results, and writing attention off.

There are only a handful of ad tech companies providing gaze-based solutions right now, and they’re who advertisers should be speaking to.


Think of real eye-tracking data as gold ore. It’s of high quality and is the most reliable standard when it comes to measuring whether an ad has actually been seen by your audience – but it still needs to be refined and processed to turn it into something usable. 

The issue lies with scale. Running bespoke eye-tracking studies against every campaign you run just isn’t feasible, due to both cost and logistics. 

But by combining eye-tracking panel data with AI, attention technology platforms can start to scale this data across a brand’s campaign in real time, right down to the impression level and all without identifiers or other invasive processes.

eye-data-Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
AI attention: Technology platforms can scale campaign data

The best attention solutions will be able to demonstrate how they scale learnings from real data to measure your live campaigns, without solely relying on things like historical norms or averages. 

This involves taking deterministic data from eye gaze panels – in other words, data we know to be true – and using it to build predictive models for attention. 

Through machine learning, hold-out sets and statistical analysis, we can scale this data out in a probabilistic way, where we can produce forecasts of likely outcomes. 

Actionable data for better optimisation

Attention-based technologies should offer more than just static insights. The best solutions will go much further by giving advertisers access to attention-curated marketplaces.

This, in turn, enables them to strategically optimise their campaigns. 

A continuous cycle of real-time analysis enables marketers to optimise campaigns right from the start, and make continual improvements to their programmatic media delivery. 

cilcular-cycle-data-Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay
Attention data: A continuous cycle of real-time analysis enables marketers to optimise campaigns, says Hall

Only then will advertisers be confident in achieving the attention-guaranteed outcomes they’re looking for in their campaigns. 

In short, actionable attention data leads to greater brand outcomes and greater return on ad spend.

Don’t wait for industry standardisation to test.

Marketers who are still on the fence, waiting for attention metrics to be standardised before taking the plunge, might be waiting a while. This is due to the sheer diversity of attention formats and approaches mentioned above. 

Marketers who are looking to leverage attention should start checking out providers now, as both industry understanding and the supporting technology grows. 

But don’t be fooled by vendors who simply claim to drive attention – look for those who have the data to back it up.