Is 'Attention' the New Metric Video Advertisers Need to Pay Attention To?

The recent IAB Digital Video Marketplace featured a panel discussion entitled, “Accelerating Metrics and Measurement: The REAL KPI’s Driving Video Adoption.” I could explain what each of the panelists said, but let me sum up: Three guys from Viacom, Time Warner Cable, and Mindshare North America shared their opinions and perspectives about the challenges and opportunities in quantifying video success, while Courtney Henseler, the Director of Consumer Analytics & Research at AOL, shared critical data and strategic insights.

For this article I’m going to focus on what Henseler said about a new metric called the Attention Index, which not only measures the shift in consumers’ attention, but also accounts for its impact on ad effectiveness.

Quantifying Video Success: Are Viewers Even Paying Attention?

Henseler opened with a left jab: “Gross Rating Points, and impressions continue to be the standard currency for advertisers to plan their TV and digital campaigns.” She followed with another jab: “However, the one measurement that these metrics cannot tell advertisers is if people are actually paying attention to the ads they are watching.” She jabbed a third time: “When consumers are distracted, advertising pays the price. Distracted video viewing dramatically impacts advertising effectiveness from ad recall to persuasion.” Then, she connected with a right hook:

“On average, when people are distracted by a device, their ad recall decreases by 43% points. When a viewer is distracted by another person, their recall sinks even further, decreasing by 52% points.”

What's the Deal with Viewer Distraction?

After the panel, I asked Henseler for some more information, and she sent me a copy of a presentation that she’d given back in December 2014 entitled, “Attention: The New Video Metric.” I felt a little sheepish that I hadn’t paid attention to AOL’s research on attention back then. But, I was distracted. So, what’s the deal on distraction? AOL knew from previous research that a majority of people use a tablet, smartphone, or PC while they’re also “watching TV.” So, AOL decided to quantify the impact diverted attention has on advertising.

AOL started by commissioning Nielsen to conduct some research. The sample included 2,044 adults aged from 18 to 65 years old who watch an hour or more of video content per week via various devices such as a TV, computer, smartphone, or tablet. Quotas were also set for age and gender to ensure accurate representation of each group. Respondents were asked up to 10 questions about their viewing behaviors, attitudes, and preferences for each of the 4 assigned content types by device. They were also asked a series of other background questions. Also, the AOL team conducted 480 in-person lab interviews where participants watched a reel of video programming on a TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone with varying levels of distraction and answered a pre/post survey about the ads and content that they watched. All of the components of these multiple phases of research were then put together into the formula below.

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creation metric

According to Henseler’s presentation, distractions cut recall by more than half. And lower recall leads to an inability to shift brand attitudes. And that leads to less ability to influence purchase decisions.

In addition, the distance between a viewer and the screens he or she is using can have an impact. This explains why TV has the highest frequency of diverted attention, because it’s typically 7 feet and 4 inches away.

TV has the highest Frequency of diverted attention

TV Ads: Not Getting the Attention They Used To

In her presentation, Henseler explained how AOL’s new attention metric works. Due to pervasive multi-tasking and cross-device usage, television ads are no longer getting the attention they used to. So, the Attention Index says 117 unique impressions delivered in primetime TV are equal to 100 unique impressions delivered in short form video content. For women, the Attention Index says 120 unique impressions delivered in primetime TV are equal to 100 unique impressions delivered in short form video content.

And the value shift is even greater for Millennials. The Attention Index says 148 unique impressions delivered in primetime TV are equal to 100 unique impressions delivered in short form video content. And when accounting for DVR and ad skipping, attention is even harder to obtain. So, the Attention Index says 180 unique impressions delivered in primetime TV are equal to 100 unique impressions delivered in short form video content.

Henseler concluded, “Video ad planning is more than just reach and frequency. Attention also needs to be considered.” I don’t know about you, but if I’d been coaching the other panelists in the ring with her, that’s when I would have told them to throw in the towel.