Attention will become the new currency: what does that mean for advertising?

Tyler Greer
By Tyler Greer | 15 July 2014
Tyler Greer

Here’s something to think about next time you’re putting together a media schedule: art history.

Consider that until the Venetians found a way to grind lapis luzuli into a paste, blue was almost entirely absent from the canvases of European paintings. And that without the breakthroughs in chemicals in the nineteenth century, impressionism could not have been possible – the colour range simply did not exist. The same can be said of the creative process in architecture, music, publishing – that creative range and expression is inextricably linked to technology.

Advertising is no different, particularly digital media. As technology has advanced, so too has the creative advertising scope available to brands. Today’s digital advertiser can execute creative ideas across more platforms, with better user experience than ever before. From delivering multiple video assets, social feeds and calls-to-action, to games and downloads, image galleries and animation, units within digital media offer sophisticated immersive brand experiences.

But whilst the possibilities for creativity and functionality have increased, the way the industry chooses to measure campaign success has remained largely static, and the true impact of highly interactive and engrossing placements is mostly ignored.

From pop-up stores to mist-producing bus shelters on hot days, red and green buttons for sub-TV and radio networks hosting rooftop parties – all media channels are searching for deeper audience engagement on behalf of their brands. Digital differs from the other only in its ability to measure effectiveness in real time across a range of key indicators. Yet still we fixate on reach and frequency.

But there are signs of change in the wind. According to AOL’s Digital Prophet, David Shing, “attention will become the new currency”. Indeed, John Slade, commercial director of digital advertising for The Financial Times, recently revealed that publisher’s plans to leverage the so-called ‘attention economy’, thereby placing dwell time and engagement as a primary success measure. Publishers have long recognised the need to hold audience attention; this simply compels advertisers to start thinking the same way.

As an industry, we already have a buying model that focusses on engagement as a campaign goal. Cost per Engagement (CPE) means that brands only pay for users that take the time to act within their creative framework. Its value is multifold. Campaigns that are bought this way act as a natural filtration system which charges only for users of value. The ways in which these users act within the unit can in turn provide learnings for advertisers as to which campaign or brand elements are the more persuasive and interesting to the consumer. By extension, this propagates more functional, journey-based creative.

Finally, there is something that is of perhaps even greater value when it comes to effective digital campaigns: the ability to avoid ad fraud. Engagement-based units, coupled with buying models that are tied to interaction, reduces greatly the risk of fraudulent action because brands are only paying for actions that can be performed by a human. In a market in which we are bombarded daily with tales of dodgy placements, bot traffic and never-to-be-seen inventory, CPE units might be the solution brands and buyers are seeking.

Tethering online media to buying and reporting models focused on clicks and impressions, and holding reach as the over-riding metric fails to recognise the value inherent in engagement based advertising. Digital media has again shown us how closely coupled creativity is with technology. All we need to do now is use the tools that we have to better understand what value attention and engagement can bring to brands.

Tyler Greer
APAC head of strategy
Exponential Interactive

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