Experts
25 . 06 . 21

Pay attention to print!

Words by: Print Power
Founder of The Attention Council and Managing Director of Lumen Research Mike Follett talks to us about the value of attention in defining advertising effectiveness. And print ranks highly.
Mike_Follet_Lumen_Research.jpeg

Founder of The Attention Council and Managing Director of Lumen Research Mike Follett talks to us about the value of attention in defining advertising effectiveness. And print ranks highly.

Ebiquity’s new study that measures the meaningful value of attention in advertising effectiveness will help brands buy media more efficiently and may go on to help marketers wake up to print advertising’s potent advantage – that it gets noticed. Ebiquity and research partners Lumen Research and TVision have published a new paper The Challenge of Attention, using eye tracking and multiple data sources from digital and TV to create a new composite metric that quantifies attention. By combining the average likelihood that someone will view an ad and the average time they spend looking at it, they’ve ‘created the first true advertising attention currency: attentive seconds per thousand impressions’, or aCPM.

If brands and advertisers adopt this new currency of attention, then it could be invaluable to print advertising too. One of the five founders of The Attention Council that was set up to discuss and promote debate around attention, Mike Follett explains why he thinks this is one cross media measurement tool that’s truly fit-for-purpose…

When you look at eye tracking to work out which channels were more effective, were the results surprising?

There are some interesting results from the recent tests we’ve been doing with Japanese media agency Dentsu and Ebiquity. One was just how short attention spans in any form are. For instance, say a million people have been exposed to an ad for 20 seconds. The ad might be there for 20 seconds, but people might only look at it for 1- to 3-seconds. It’s important to remember that people have a choice about what to look at. That has quite big creative implications. If you know that people are only going to be looking at an ad for a couple of seconds, then you might want to design your ads in a slightly different way to work in those few seconds.

The most interesting big learning is that while traditional media are often disparaged as being old fashioned, they’re actually very effective at getting attention. Recent studies have concentrated on digital media as people have been spending much more time on their phones and computers, especially during lockdown. So it is a sensible place to advertise.

But while a typical YouTube 6-second ad might get around 2.4-seconds of attention - and that’s a good result - a typical full-page ad in a newspaper might get around 3.3-seconds of attention. When people read print media, they attend to the ads for a far greater duration. So the quality of attention generated by print media shouldn’t be ignored.

How do you define attention? Do you look retrospectively at what it is after testing?

One way is to have a look at literature produced by academics and psychologists like William James, Richard Gregory and Anne Treisman.

The second way is to look at attention through its impact on business results. So rather than spending lots of time defining eye and ear movements, sound, smell and touch, you look at the effect of attention and what happens next in terms of people remembering things, buying things, or changing their behaviour.

When people read print media, they attend to the ads for a far greater duration. So the quality of attention generated by print media shouldn’t be ignored
Mike Follett
Managing Director/Lumen

Do you think that attention might be the new standard for cross channel measurement?

Attention is a complicated subject. Eyes, ears, smell, touch, taste - all the senses have some sort of attentive characteristic. We tend as an industry and as a culture to look at the eyes as the most important measure. And that's what we at Lumen measure – visual attention. It’s not the whole story, but the good thing about the eyes is that they’re constantly working whether you're looking at your mobile phone screen, or your PC, or if you pick up a physical print publication. In that sense, if you can find a way of measuring visual attention consistently across the day - that is some sort of common currency of attention. That holds out quite a possibility for cross media measurement.

Is there so much focus on attention because it directly correlates with brand recall?

Yes, it’s potentially a common currency across media. Lumen has recently done a study with Dentsu, where we looked at the attention levels of digital media advertising. What we found is that people are pretty good at ignoring advertising on digital platforms. But what's interesting is that if they do look at the ads, then they have a much better chance of actually engaging with them and remembering them. Recall is sometimes three times as high for ads that you've engaged with visually, rather than them just being in your peripheral vision.

Much more importantly, what brands really want is for people to change behaviour. In the same test, we gave people some choices about what brands they wanted to buy. And using a brand choice survey at the end, we found that people who had looked at the ads were seven times more likely to choose a particular brand than people who hadn’t looked at the ads. So intention is very important for recall as you might imagine.

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Lumen’s research into press advertising suggests that people find press advertising very hard to miss, and on average give it slightly less attention than social media advertising. As a result, while people only spend 20 minutes a day reading newspapers, 90 seconds are spent looking at the advertising in the press.

According to the recent Ebiquity study, there's a chasm between what marketers perceive to be effective and what actually is. Do you think studies that show print’s impressive dwell time might change people's perceptions?

They may do. We have been seduced by big numbers. We put a dogmatic quantity on advertising impressions without giving too much thought to the quality. You can buy tens of thousands of digital ads that will reach people, but they'll get looked at for a very short amount of time. Whereas with a magazine or newspaper ad, it is true that you will not reach the same amount of people as you might on Facebook or on YouTube. But when people pick up a magazine or newspaper, they do engage with the ads more and for longer. So the quality of attention to advertising produced by print media tends to be much greater.

How can brands operationalize the attention measurement? Can they use some sort of standard on each channel?

Well, who's going to do the operationalizing? There are three parties here - the people who sell the advertising, the people who buy the advertising, and the middleman. And I don’t think this data is going be used as a standard between all of these groups. It'll be used by the buy side - the brands and their agencies - to identify quality in the market, where they should put their money and where they are going to get the biggest return for their investment. This sort of data allows them to identify which media and which ad formats are most likely to generate the most attention, the most cost efficiently. That's the crucial thing. Not just how much attention am I getting from each brand for each format. But how much am I paying for it, so that I can understand the cost of attention?

I wouldn't be at all surprised that in looking at the data and then working out the cost of attention in different media, smart media planners will use this new metric and see that magazine and print advertising suddenly look like an attentional bargain.

I wouldn't be at all surprised that in looking at the data and then working out the cost of attention in different media, smart media planners will use this new metric and see that magazine and print advertising suddenly look like an attentional bargain
Mike Follett
Managing Director/ Lumen

You've talked about the recall of print ads being pretty impressive. Do you think that’s down to its physicality?

Well one thing we have also found in our data is that not only does print advertising get more attention, but from our research, it seems to be more efficient at generating recall. So, after say 2-seconds of looking at a digital ad, perhaps 15 per cent of people might remember it. But around 20 to 25 per cent of people might remember it if it’s in print. Why is that? Yes, it might be something to do with the physicality, but it’s also down to the familiarity that we have, as brands and as agencies in making the ads. We have been learning how to make print ads for around 200 years in the UK. There’s a visual culture that is deeply embedded in art schools and advertising courses that teach people how to make an effective ad with a short headline, a big picture, and a logo in the bottom right-hand corner. A classic schema, the psychologists call it. A well-defined visual layout to help people navigate the ad.

We do not have that when it comes to digital advertising. We are still learning, and I still don't think we know how to do digital well. I think we've seen that digital advertising has much more to learn from the craft skills of print advertising than print advertising has to learn from digital advertising.

Do you think attention as a measure will be adopted as an industry standard?

I don't think that attention will become a new currency for media buying, as attention to ads is a function of the media, but so is the creative and the targeting. Publishers can sell an opportunity to see, and an average amount of eyes-on view time, but they can't control the creative that's put in their pages.

Instead, I think that attention data will be used by savvy media buyers to gain trading alpha - a sort of 'attention arbitrage' - which helps them uncover bargains in the market. It just may be that print is one of those bargains!