Advertising attention is a much-debated topic. Our own take is that it is crucial to understand and measure properly, but that there are still many questions to answer before attention can become a meaningful metric in its own right.
However, one thing is clear from the research that has been done into attention so far: TV advertising is a very high performer. Recent analysis by TVision/Lumen, for example, found TV to be an “attention bargain” – although we’d argue it is even more of a bargain than they claim, as we have written here.
TV advertising grabs and holds attention for a number of reasons – from the fact that it is more welcome / less unwelcome than other forms of interruptive advertising, to the fact that it appears seamlessly in a high-quality environment.
TVision/Lumen have shown that ads are watched for a much longer period of time on TV than they are on social media. TV’s big screen experience and long-established value exchange are conducive to high levels of visual attention.
In TV, advertisers are guaranteed that their ads will sit within people’s favourite TV programmes and will be played through from start to finish, with no skip button (TV ads that are fast forwarded in recorded content aren’t charged for). High-quality content is the best at converting viewing time to ad viewing.
View through rates (the proportion of ads played from start to finish) in online video are very low. In the TV environment of broadcaster VOD, for example, the average view through is 97%. The other challenge for online video is that much of it is in-feed advertising, so there’s no reason why people have to watch them – they can simply scroll past the advertising.
And it is important to remember that watching – visual attention – is only part of the story. The audio in audio visual is a very important component of how advertising generates effectiveness. While visual or gaze direction-based measures are a reasonable proxy, we mustn’t presume that AV-based advertising that isn’t looked at is entirely ineffective. People will often be heard singing along to the ad jingles or soundtracks whilst visually distracted by their phones.