The attention economy


Attention is a scarce resource. Dentsu Aegis Network’s proprietary research reveals that only one-third of ads get the audience’s full attention. When people can skip ads, they often do. And when they cannot skip, they often look away. The explosion in digital content, new forms of advertising and the technology at our fingertips has created both the motive and the means for people to screen advertising out of their lives.

Advertising has been slow to react to this challenge. Media currencies - impressions, reach and ‘opportunities to see’ - are increasingly problematic, when the relative value of those metrics across channels and platforms is what really matters.

Together with leading advertisers and media owners, Dentsu Aegis Network is leading a new initiative designed to find a solution - The Attention Economy. Our aim is to define a new value system and ultimately, to challenge the way the industry trades.

Using the latest eye-tracking technology and research panels in the UK, US and Australia, we have analysed 17,000 individual video ad exposures across three platforms: linear TV, in-feed video on social media and pre-roll on video platforms. Research has been conducted by the Centre for Amplified Intelligence and Karen Nelson-Field, Professor of Media Innovation at the University of Adelaide.  

The findings are the very first step in updating how our industry measures, plans and trades media in the digital economy. Two key insights stand out:

  1. An ad that is not seen is worthless, but the way we see advertising and how that impacts effectiveness is nuanced. Also partially seen ads are able to boost sales. Hence reducing ad-avoidance may be more important to advertisers than maximising full-on attention.
  2. Effectiveness is closely related to how much of an ad is viewable and for how long, but other factors may be equally important. Clear branding moments, such as showing a brand’s logo, increase the audience’s attention. 

Already, we believe our increased understanding of attention can better fuel client strategies. Looking forward, we are confident that a universal, cross-platform standard is possible, based on a genuine opportunity to communicate.

Read the full Attention Economy report here.

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