Karen Nelson-Field: Media Agencies Don’t Get Attention Because They Prioritise Price

Karen Nelson-Field: Media Agencies Don’t Get Attention Because They Prioritise Price

Dr Karen Nelson-Field has said that media planners and buyers do not fully understand attention and why it is better than other campaign measurement metrics.

Update 13/5/23: Amended to clarify Nelson-Field’s position.

Speaking to B&T, the author, founder and CEO of Amplified Intelligence said that her company’s new-ish attentionProve metric is “far superior” to other verification and measurement systems but that planners and buyers do not understand why.

“It doesn’t make assumptions at all,” she explained.

“But, at the moment the synthetic data tells you little of whether a human has paid any attention [to an ad] because the markers that are in market — so coverage, pixels and time in view — can equal attention or distraction. So, until you can model that against actual human behaviour, they miss the mark.”

But, according to Nelson-Field, some in the industry misunderstand attention.

“It’s hard for me to describe that difference because most people in our industry go for lowest cost. But, when it doesn’t work, then they get the difference. It’s the difference between chance and accuracy,” she said.

“I understand the difference deeply, but 99 per cent of the industry doesn’t.”

The Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) and the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) have both taken steps to codify and enshrine what attention means in the world of digital advertising. But, there are still a range of companies that, in Nelson-Field’s mind, are focusing on the wrong aspects of measurement.

“These big industry associations are on board with evolving it [attention] into the currency of the future, which is great news for us. But there are two types of data. One is human with a panel and getting data through visual means, such as gaze tracking, facial recognition, pose estimation,” she explained.

“Whereas the other side of it is designed for media, it’s synthetic data. It’s basically tracking, putting a pixel or code in the back end of a creative and saying ‘oh, this person’s scrolled slowly’ or ‘the ad was in view for a certain amount of time’ and that, therefore, is attention.

“This is where we see the IASs and the DoubleVerifys and, to a degree, Adelaide as well.”

Amplified Intelligence’s attentionProve will also tag creatives and track their performance around the web but it also uses a 60,000-strong panel and “close to 100 attention markers” to get an understanding of human attention and to measure overall campaign success.

While previous efforts at more human-based measurement systems have been expensive and difficult to scale and purely tech-based solutions have questions around true accuracy, Nelson-Field said that combining the two will reap benefits.

“There are two types of attention data being commoditised at the moment. One real, one synthetic,” she explained.

“The real human attention data has a scale issue. We’ve got 60,000 panellists and that’s expensive and you need consent and that can be hard. The other is extremely scalable. Think about the DoubleVerify product, it can fly across billions of impressions but it tells us nothing about human attention.

“It’s the combination of both that is the future of attention economics and there are only two of us in the world that do it.”

Media planners and buyers have previously told B&T that attention is just another metric and, while nice to have, does not change the fact that return on investment and effectiveness were the ultimate determiners of campaign success.

However, Nelson-Field thinks that these planners are looking at the metric — and their own campaigns — in a slightly reductive fashion.

“It is quite complicated because the lack of attention has a flow-on effect to reach-based planning. Most people think of it as a fairly one-dimensional reality but the lack of attention, and it is not equal across all different platforms, has a direct impact on how much reach you can achieve,” she said.

“They don’t realise but attention is a big factor in the return on investment. So getting more of it impacts exactly what they want. I think that there are a lot of agencies that are really connected to it and understand the volume issue but there are a massive load of people that think it’s just another viewability. It is nothing like that at all.

“It’s a lot deeper than people think. It’s not just another metric. It literally equalises the error that has been left behind in the digital era.”

Karen Nelson-Field will be speaking at Cannes in Cairns later this month. You can find out more information and buy tickets here.

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