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Attention Metric

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  Vivek P,  VP - Revenue Strategy, Times Internet

The digital advertising industry’s one of the prominent promises was transparency, and this was revolutionized by the ‘click’ metric. Click for advertisers was an ROI metric representing risk mitigation strategy resulting in large amounts of digital advertising capital allocated to digital medium.

The increasing competition, pressure to deliver consistent results and overt focus on short term ROI has marred the digital advertising landscape with evils such as click bait and other abuses. If advertisers would look closely, they would find their focus or over focus on buying ‘clicks’, however, the clicks no longer have the same credibility they once carried. Also, digital, a advertising medium favourite for lower funnel advertisers, has moved-up in the favorability matrix for top-of the funnel advertisers.

Brands characterized by nearly decrepit feedback loops and developed sales cycles, also desire ad measurement metric beyond clicks and impressions. The desire for new ad measurement originates not only because of the need for better ROI metric, but also because there is a growing understanding that digital medium metric can be used to do much more by informing advertiser subtleties about the brand performances such as how much resonance an ad created for a brand.

Advertising is about buying and selling ‘attention’, while the click is an expression of interest not expression of attention, and hence, at best a proxy for attention. With the advent of data science and big data capabilities, today, it is possible for the digital advertising industry to transition from a proxy metric to actual attention metric. An added advantage of these actual attention metrics is that they capture the consumer experience holistically.

Viewability, a basic alternative unit of attention measurement, drives its value from the fact that an ad has to be on the viewable portion of the screen. This unit gives many commercial arrangements such as cost-per thousand viewable impressions. Viewable impression can be defined as the

impression seen by an audience; e.g. an ad at the bottom of the page may register an impression, but unless scrolled to the bottom and seen by a human being, it does not become a viewable impression. We, at Times Internet, have always strived to come-up with innovative technology led solutions for our advertisers, and in this process of continuous improvement, we churn out several internal research. Moreover, viewable impressions are expected to impact Brand Lifts too, but the impact is slightly less pronounced as on the CTRs.

Viewability, a basic alternative unit of attention measurement, drives its value from the fact that an ad has to be on the viewable portion of the screen


Viewable impressions has struggled with its own set of challenges including higher cost of viewable impression, detrimental impact on user experience, susceptibility to fraud and manipulation through obscure ads.

Moreover, something is amiss because viewable impressions do not differentiate between ads that are viewed for only a few seconds from the ones that are viewed for a few minutes. In this endeavour to find the right metric for attention measurement, one missing ingredient is time in view or duration of ad view. Buying ads on a time in view metric solves for ads with time as a representative of attention values the ads with more time spent more.

Time-in-view helps advertisers to understand several aspects such as response and engagement to different creatives within the same and different campaigns. An insight which is invaluable when combined with target audience and other related factors. These combined can act as a very insightful feedback loop for marketers during strategy and campaign design. However, time-in-view doesn’t address share of attention, meaning there could be a number of ads in view at the same time for the same duration, but assuming that all the ads get equal attention which might not be true.

In the future, technology can be used to address the gaps left by time-in-view. Technological means such as tracking movement or interaction via a mouse or even eye, however, privacy norms would have to be kept in mind while designing such technological solutions, as not many users may not be comfortable sharing where one’s mouse is pointing, leave alone what part of the screen eye is watching. With the evolving digital advertising landscape, proxies are no longer a measure of ROI of advertising budgets and in the dynamic and cluttered environment of digital advertising, an Attention Metric is the potential future media currency.

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