Leveraging Attention Metrics for Digital Advertising

Impressions and viewability aren’t enough – the shift to attention metrics is here

Two advertisements on the internet can have the same number of impressions with the same viewability, but the attention paid to them can still be vastly different.


That illustrates the need for attention metrics, an umbrella term for more in-depth digital advertising measurement that goes beyond impressions to really track viewer attention.


Up until now, impressions and viewability have been the most important metric for most marketers. But whereas impressions are best thought of as how many users could have seen an advertisement, attention metrics measure the actual attention paid.


So, provided we have your attention, let’s take a deep dive into what attention metrics are, why they’re essential for effective digital advertising, and how to capture attention effectively – starting off with why impressions don’t cut it anymore.


Source: Brands&people 2021



Impressions and plain viewability metrics can be misleading. Tracking how many people could see your advertisement in theory isn’t the most helpful metric, and that becomes even more of an issue when paying per impression. As we’ve covered before on our blog, impression numbers are susceptible to ad fraud, but even completely legitimate impression numbers don’t tell the full story.


To fix the issue, marketers track viewability as well – the IAB standard outlines what viewability means (as opposed to mere impressions) with minimum thresholds, which is, for video ads, 50% of the ad unit being in view for two consecutive seconds.


That, too, can be misleading and insufficient. Advertisements can be viewable – but they aren’t necessarily viewed.


That’s especially relevant for CTV, where an average of 8-10% of ads play while the TV is turned off.




It’s important to note that we refer to attention metrics, plural, rather than a singular attention metric. What we mean by ‘attention’ in digital advertising is less strictly defined than more concrete variables such as ‘impressions’ or ‘clicks’.


One approach to measuring attention is to take a laboratory route, which isn’t effective at scale but can give remarkably accurate results which can be extrapolated for wider conclusions. We performed our own research study at ShowHeroes for CTV, using eye-tracking technology to find exactly how much attention users pay to CTV compared to other mediums.


For measuring attention at scale, however, a more indirect (but still scientific) approach needs to be taken. That comes in the form of attention metrics models, which are calculations that use readily accessible variables such as in-view duration, device type, engagement, ad positioning, and more.


The measured time in seconds that an ad has been in view is the common denominator for most, if not all, attention measurement models currently in use.


Models can be relatively simple. The IAB, for example, has a model that measures ‘attention per thousand impressions’, which uses only two variables – the percentage of people looking at ads and the time ads were looked at – in its formula.


The ShowHeroes Attention Index, on the other hand, leverages other data points in a more complex calculation, including seconds of time in view, ad positioning, screen share, user engagement, media type, contextual alignment, and many others.




We’ve covered the science behind measuring attention – equally important is capturing it.


The term ‘attention economy’, a theory that attention is a scarce commodity, was coined back in 1971. In the decades since, attention has become all the more difficult to acquire as the number of screens, stimuli, and advertisements has increased exponentially.


What that means is that best practices for capturing and holding attention are what separate the wheat from the chaff. Here are our tips:


Promote interactivity


A surefire way to capture attention is to generate engagement. Unless someone’s misclicking, interaction with an advertisement is deliberate and, if the advertisement is effective, it’s both relevant and rewarding for the viewer.


By ‘rewarding’ we don’t just mean that a click should lead to a good landing page – sometimes a digital advertisement can reward interaction without taking a user off a page. Take a look at ShowHeroes’ Engaging Ad formats, which only fully reveal themselves when interacted with.


Semantic targeting


People pay attention to what they find relevant and gloss over what isn’t. That’s the backbone of effective advertising, digital or not.


With privacy regulations making it harder to target users’ personal interests and the upcoming cookie phaseout, contextual advertising is taking center stage. Semantic targeting, its AI-powered upgrade, is the star of the show.


Rather than tracking users’ interests over time, contextual and semantic targeting analyzes the content of the page a user is currently viewing and shows an advertisement relevant to that. After all, if a user is on a page, they’re interested in that page’s topic – it follows that they’ll be interested in an advertisement relevant to that content.


Check out ShowHeroes SemanticHero to see how semantic targeting brings contextual advertising into modern-day industry standards.


Instream advertising


When users know that what’s being displayed is an advertisement from the first moment they see it, they’re likely to gloss over it without giving it a proper look. That’s why video advertisements are best-shown instream, i.e. played after or during a non-advertisement video relevant to the article’s content.


An example of an instream advertisement is a mid-roll ad on YouTube. Some solutions, like those offered by ShowHeroes, will even display advertisements on pages instream by playing relevant video content right before the advertisement to draw in viewers and grab their attention.

attention measurement partners and tools

Despite being a new practice that’s in its experimental phase throughout the industry, attention is already measurable and can already provide real value.


Our in-house ShowHeroes Attention Index is a measurement model that’s able to calculate the impact of factors such as media type and contextual alignment on an ad’s memorability.


ShowHeroes combines that with attention measurement technology from Adelaide, which evaluates hundreds of factors in their calculations, and Lumen, which combines impression-level data with eye-tracking research for accurate attention measurements.


If you’re looking to supercharge your existing digital advertising strategy, we’d love to get in touch. ShowHeroes solutions are designed to utilize video advertising to its fullest potential, from the aforementioned Attention Index to SemanticHero targeting and NativeCTV technology, providing relevant and engagement-boosting videos.


Our global network of premium publishers, the ShowHeroes video library containing over 150,000 high-quality videos, and our state-of-the-art solutions are standing by to put your advertisements in the most engaging context possible to reach and be remembered by audiences.