The future of metrics is 'attention', not 'rubbish recall' - Nelson-Field

Arvind Hickman
By Arvind Hickman | 24 November 2016
Dr Karen Nelson-Field.

Attention-based metrics are the most effective way of measuring the success of advertising and marketing campaigns, a global authority on digital media and marketing has said.

Dr Karen Nelson-Field, who is working on cutting edge projects that apply artificial intelligence technology to marketing, says consumer attention will become a more important measurement than sales and is at the heart of research she is spearheading across several projects, including the effectiveness of television as a marketing platform for Think TV.

A fragmented media market combined with stretched and shrinking attention spans has meant metrics that show consumers are switched onto your brand are much more valuable than “rubbish” and “old fashioned” metrics on recall, purchase intent and persuasion-based measures.

“This is the future of what you and I are doing,” Nelson-Field tells AdNews. “Eventually it will be used for reach-based measurements. It's universal, it's cross-screen and it transcends any particular platform.”

Nelson-Field challenges the wisdom of using metrics that measure explicit memory and persuasion.

Purchase intent is one metric widely used by marketers to assess whether campaigns are likely to translate into sales and deliver a return on investment.

However, Nelson-Field argues such metrics are often poor indicators, particularly as testing can involve placing consumes in unnatural, environments.

“There's plenty of literature to show that intention and action is quite far removed,” Nelson-Field warns. “Particularly when you sit down with consumers and ask them things like, 'how likely are you to buy this phone now that you've seen this ad?”

'Viewing' doesn't mean 'attention'

Another indicator Nelson-Field says has limited value but is widely used by marketers and media owners is time spent viewing.

This doesn't paint an accurate picture of whether a viewer is paying attention to a brand, whether their eyes are fixed on the screen or somewhere else, and if creative has left a brand impression.

To solve this problem, Media Intelligence Co. - a joint venture between Nelson-Field and AI tech firm Jemsoft - is working on projects with some of the largest companies in the world to utilise cutting-edge AI technology to measure attention, facial recognition and brand effectiveness.

One of the projects, known as Attention Plus, measures consumer attention above and beyond the standard gaze technology currently offered in the market.

“That’s the difference between true artificial intelligence and automated systems that are on the market today and sold off as being AI,” she says. “You can basically determine the degree of attention on someone watching online content, mobile content, TV content and we’re starting to do it now on outdoor. The sky is the limit.”

The technology uses a computer vision platform called MonocularAPI, which combines neural network processes and computer learning to look for signs other than just gaze. It is modelled on the way the human brain solves problems using a network of neural units (neurons in a human brain) learning the more it is used.

It can look at objects a person is holding or the car they are driving to provide more data points that provide clues about attention.

artifical intelligence

AI will help marketers determine mood and predict when consumers are likely to purchase.

Another project Media Intelligence Co. is working on takes this a step further by using facial recognition technology to measure human emotions.

“We're in a project where we can customise a much broader system that looks for so much more than just the Paul Ekman six basic emotions (anger, happiness, surprise, disgust, sadness and fear),” she says.

“The outward facing computer vision can be used to build anything from gaze to facial recognition to whether you are wearing glasses to whether you use a walking stick.”

All of this technology provides marketers with valuable insights that will not only allow them to measure human reaction, but provides a powerful predictive marketing tool to help refine relevance and targeting. In theory, it will be able to work out when a consumer feels like products or services even if there are no obvious online triggers.

This will be particularly useful for companies that bank on compulsive buying. For example, a confectionery company will be able to predict when a consumer is likely to want chocolate and serve an ad to them at a petrol pump or in a shopping mall in real time.

“If you look up the attention economy, a whole lot of leading academics are heading in this space and that's where I'm headed,” Nelson-Field adds.

“At the moment I'm still getting the push back, 'but a sale is a sale and attention is not'. Given we have an AI arm, we have been able to link it to actual third-party sales transaction data. We can also link it back to attention on the brand as a proxy. Attention is the future.”

*Nelson-Field was speaking to AdNews ahead of next week's ReThink TV event, where she will lay out the findings of research into how effective television is in marketing.

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop us a line at

Sign up to the AdNews newsletter, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for breaking stories and campaigns throughout the day.

comments powered by Disqus