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Attention seekers welcome

  • Date:

    22 April 2021

Attention seekers welcome

With the demise of the cookie and a renewed focus on attention, Anna Sampson, insight and strategy director Magnetic, wrote a piece for WARC on why context is key when it comes to effective advertising. The following is an abridged version of her original article.

Whether you take a targeted or a broad reach approach to your communications, impressions only work if they make an impression. Data will get you to the audience, but it won’t get you their attention.

Speaking at Magnetic’s annual conference Spark recently, author and strategist Faris Yakob highlighted important new research from Karen Nelsen-Field  that reveals a relationship between attention and sales. Simply put – more attention equals more sales. More specifically, no exposure = no effect, no attention = small effect, active attention = the most effects.

Putting attention in context

A new study ‘Putting Attention into Context’ commissioned by Magnetic in collaboration with Lumen uses eye tracking technology, measuring ‘eyes on’ attention to advertising on magazine websites. The study benchmarks magazine online environments against Lumen digital norms for other quality content sites and social media.

The analysis looked at the proportion of adverts that were viewable, actually viewed and for how long, providing one single number on which to compare the performance of magazine websites – attentive seconds per thousand impressions.

Not all impressions are created equal

It found that advertising on magazine websites is noticed by more people for longer than equivalent ads on close comparator sites. In fact, these quality content websites generate TWICE as much aggregate attention as other online environments, proving that not all impressions are created equal.

On mobile, for magazines, 86% of people viewed the ads, as opposed to 66% on Facebook, and 62% for other types of quality digital display. Adverts on magazine websites viewed via desktop get on average 2 seconds of attention compared to 1.4 seconds for other quality digital display.

These findings re-invigorate the attention debate, but with the demise of the cookie they also bring renewed focus on context.

The cookie monster

Some question the effectiveness of cookies in the first place. Yakob cited an academic paper in his ‘Cookie Crumbles’ Spark 2021 opening speech that found a cookie-based approach only managed to correctly identify gender 46% of the time – which is worse than random!

Is the demise of cookie then perhaps an opportunity to rethink targeting and performance-based marketing?

In the old world of cookies, relevance can be mismatched. Have you ever been served advertising after a purchase, or experienced advertising in a context that jars? These experiences may have led you to question the efficacy of hyper-targeting to audiences via data. However, a renewed focus on context takes a wider appreciation of relevance which is not just about the audience and their data but also the environment in which the message is consumed.

Audience based targeting never fully appreciated the value of your message being overheard by others in a shared community. This is the idea that, for example, a fashion brand advertising on doesn’t just benefit from targeting a luxury audience potentially close to purchase, but also benefits from the audience feeling that their peers are seeing the same message and the social approval this brings.

Pay attention

If we put attention in context of the cookie debate, the value of publisher environments is a real boon at a time when advertisers are looking for alternative solutions. In an effort to explain the positive results for magazine websites Follett said, ‘All those highly paid journalists producing stuff that people want to read generates slow content that means ads have enough time to get noticed’.

But it’s not just slow media and the uncluttered environment that is key to their success. Crucially it’s also that the relevance publishers provide is double edged – relevant audiences and relevant contexts. If you couple this with their access to first party data, it seems like an opportunity not to be missed for advertisers.

The work that Lumen has done alongside other members of the Attention Council makes a strong case for considering attention when planning and buying. Attention matters because, as the evidence shows, it is linked to recall, intention to purchase and incremental sales. Advertisers like Mars, ABI. British Gas and Co-op are already planning based on attention and seeing the results.

Isn’t it time you turned your attention to attention?

Anna Sampson, Strategy and Insight Director Magnetic