Ed McElvain
Aug 16, 2021

What we learned from a year of working with attention metrics

We already knew attention mattered. This year, we discovered just how much.


Despite Google’s recent announcement that it won’t phase out third-party cookies until 2022, the “cookie-less future” that advertisers have been preparing for remains a fast-approaching reality. While much of the focus has been on targeting implications, losing cookie-based attribution for real-time optimization will be more painful for many digital marketers. 

Attention metrics have emerged as a strong alternative to cookies, and can provide direction to deliver more efficient outcomes throughout the marketing funnel.  

Three years ago, the industry conversation centered on viewability. With advances in technology, we can now look at more variables that indicate attentiveness and engagement, and lead to conversion. These include time in-view, but also environmental clutter, format, ad placement and creative.

Marketers and agencies can implement broader strategies that push the limits of measuring, optimizing and delivering high-quality campaigns with better outcomes and impact.

Here are a few things we’ve learned from working with attention metrics for a full year.

Creative + Media

Creative and media work together to attract and hold attention. While media generates an opportunity for uninterrupted attention, creative captures and holds that attention and introduces the brand. Attention metrics gave us specific guidance to measure the impact of each of these factors independently from one another.

Full-funnel evidence

While the connection between attention metrics and brand impact is well-proven, our biggest leap this year was proving a correlation between attention metrics and lower-funnel outcomes. For one client with a low-funnel KPI, we found a 0.69 correlation between cost-per-attention-unit (CPAU) and cost-per-lead (CPL). That meant if we optimized towards a more efficient CPAU, we’d likely drive a more efficient CPL as well. In hindsight, these results are obvious: attentive, high-quality media benefits all types of outcomes. 

Trust but verify

Our clients consistently see strong results from attention metrics, so we’re starting to apply them right out of the gate. Best practices call to check correlation and calibrate with outcomes as they become available. Some attention measurement platforms have integrations with sales and survey data providers, making it easy to spot-check and prove correlation.

Quality is nuanced

There’s been some noise in the industry around repackaging hygienic metrics like viewability as proxies for quality. Mediahub research concluded that attention metrics are far better correlated with business outcomes and reflect actual media quality.  

While hygienic metrics can answer the question, “Should we pay for this media?” attention metrics answer “How much should we pay for this media?”

Attention metrics help media buyers identify and support high-quality publishers — those that are innovating with products that are good for consumers and brands alike — and create an industry incentive for more and better-quality media. 

Ed McElvain is EVP at P3, Mediahub

Campaign UK

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