Fast Forward: May I have your attention please?

By Andy Ford, head of marketing science, Australia & New Zealand, Meta | Sponsored

Capturing your target audience’s attention is crucial for any marketer. In this third installment of Facebook and Instagram’s Fast Forward series, an extended data collection from Amplified Intelligence reveals the importance of attention, alongside reach, as a driver of business results.

There are many factors that contribute to successful media planning, but if any of them were vying for top billing currently, attention would be right up there. Yes, it is only one aspect in the mix, but it’s certainly something brands and marketers should be looking at closely.

In today’s media environment there are a few companies that measure attention. Among them is Amplified Intelligence, headed up by its founder Dr. Karen Nelson-Field.

It’s an Adelaide-based business which is now pushing into 10 countries across the world, and has direct relationships with most of the biggest media agency groups, providing attention data to inform their buying decisions.

Back in 2017 Nelson-Field had made a splash locally by conducting a wide-ranging study into attention and its significance for advertisers.

But, with the video viewing landscape now bearing little resemblance to that of just four years ago, Meta decided the time was right to commission a refreshed and extended collection from Amplified Intelligence to understand how our evolving platforms and formats perform now. The results are very interesting.

How did they do it?

The data collection iterated to measure how people and advertisers were using Facebook and Instagram in 2021 by including more platforms, formats and relevant advertising executions.

In total, Amplified Intelligence surveyed 1160 people, using eye-tracking technology with participants’ permission. They were shown ads made for the platform from 10 advertisers across the In-stream, Stories and Feed surfaces on Facebook and Instagram. Viewers were also shown ads they would have been served natively. 


Over 4,500 views of ads were watched on mobile devices. In a sign of the times, mobile alone was chosen as the medium given that 94% of monthly active users access Facebook on these devices1. Incidentally, mobile, according to Amplified Intelligence’s extensive experience, attracts greater attention from people than other screens.

Importantly, this is the same methodology Amplified Intelligence used for its digital collections, ensuring the results are comparable to the rest of the industry to give advertisers a clear view of performance.

Meaningful results

The attention economy is born from the insight that advertising doesn't work unless it manages to capture some part of people's attention.

Of course, every platform is different, and each has different qualities. But what stood out when comparing data collections from 2017 and 2021 was the marked improvement of Facebook and Instagram for their percentage of active attention.

In 2017, Facebook ads on mobile averaged 43% of active attention. While in 2021, a blended score of Facebook and Instagram formats saw it rise to an impressive 80%2.


On a similar note, all of In-stream, Stories and News Feed recorded impressive figures for attention-seconds.

For the crucial metric of active attention - or the period where a viewer’s eyes are fixed on the screen - In-stream proved to be highly compelling. For ads on the platform, respondents averaged 5.79 seconds of active attention3.

One reason for this high engagement is the nature of In-stream, which plays unskippable ads during longer form video. People viewing an In-stream ad are already leaning in and paying close attention to curated content that is highly relevant to them. This higher level engagement thus transfers over to the advertising they see.

Stories are another powerhouse for active attention. The format captures attention effectively by virtue of a full screen takeover. And even though the ads are skippable, active attention averages an impressive 5.6 seconds4.

With active attention seconds of this length, the surfaces have moved beyond mere advertising strongholds and developed into fully fledged places for brand building.

The News Feed remains both Facebook and Instagram’s most visited feature and it too provides strong engagement for advertisers. Ongoing iterations and improvements here have seen active attention seconds rise to 3.345 - ample time for a brand to announce itself to the vast audiences that frequent the platforms around the clock each day.


Not only are the three surfaces all highly effective in their own way in capturing audience attention, but advertisers can benefit even further by combining their powers. Research shows that combining Stories with News Feed lifts social media ad campaign return on investment by an average of 55%. But adding In-stream to both News Feed and Stories lifts return on investment to 92%6.

Adding In-Stream investment to your News Feed and Stories activity improves both your Active Attention and ROI. An example of this working successfully comes from Nestlé KitKat, which added In-Stream to its usual mix of Stories and News Feed. It resulted in a brand outcomes lift of 1.5X and yielded a 7.7 point incremental increase in awareness of KitKat’s recyclable wrappers7.

The thing which really hammers home the advantage is creating for the surface you’re using. By ensuring you get the brand in upfront and deliver entertaining and highly visual content, you can gain an unfair advantage over your competition.

What’s next

Continual improvements to the experience means digital platforms are not standing still when it comes to attention. Unlike other traditional formats, there are constant iterations aimed at making the experience better for both users and advertisers across the Facebook and Instagram platforms.

Of course, attention is just one element in assessing where your media investment should go - it’s also vital to find the largest addressable audiences for your budget in order to maximise the investment.

The most successful brands of the future will be those which tap into attention-based insights and adjust their marketing strategy accordingly. What is clear is that for both reach and attention, Facebook and Instagram are providing a uniquely effective advertising solution.

For a deeper dive into the importance of attention for advertisers, check out Andy Ford’s chat with Amplified Intelligence Founder Karen Nelson-Field.


  1. Based on Facebook data, September 2021
  2. (1) Benchmark Series Tranche 1, TV & PC Collection, 2017 (2) Amplified Intelligence, Facebook Mobile Data Collection, Australia, 2021. Blended average attention across News Feed, In-stream and Stories, N=1160
  3. Amplified Intelligence, Facebook Mobile Data Collection, Australia, 2021. Blended average attention across News Feed, In-stream and Stories, N=1160.
  4. Amplified Intelligence, Facebook Mobile Data Collection, Australia, 2021. Blended average attention across News Feed, In-stream and Stories, N=1160.
  5. Amplified Intelligence, Facebook Mobile Data Collection, Australia, 2021. Blended average attention across News Feed, In-stream and Stories, N=1160.
  6. Analytic Partner ROI Genome 2005-2020
  7. Facebook Brand Lift Study (Dec, 2020), compared to the Facebook CPG industry average, Facebook Brand Lift Study (Dec, 2020)

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