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Attention metrics are the next frontier of digital ad measurement

For almost a decade, viewability has been the “it” standard. Viewability established a quality baseline with industrywide recognition. If the consumer can’t see an ad, how could it possibly drive results? Unless it’s viewable, an ad is a waste of precious resources.

An impression is viewable if at least 50% of the ad’s pixels are visible to the end user for at least 1 continuous second for static creative or 2 continuous seconds for video, per Media Rating Council (MRC) standards.

As an optimization lever and digital currency, viewability has incentivized a web full of intrusive ad clutter. More than a fifth (21%) of observed ad impressions run on MFA websites that game viewability, according to a January 2023 study from the Association of National Advertisers (ANA). MFA websites often resort to high ad density, pop-ups, autoplays, and frequent ad refreshing to generate revenues. But these high-viewability placements are training consumers to ignore the ads they see. And as average global viewability trends upward, consumers are spending less time viewing each ad, according to H2 2022 data from Integral Ad Science (IAS).

Now, attention is emerging as viewability’s successor. Viewability metrics are still important to establish that a consumer had the opportunity to see an ad, but attention metrics aim to confirm whether the consumer noticed and absorbed the message. Attention is another steppingstone along the path to outcomes-based measurement—a complementary metric to viewability.

Advertisers are tentatively wading into attention. Over a third (36%) of US buy-side ad decision-makers planned to focus at least somewhat more on attention metrics this year, according to a November 2022 survey from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB). But there’s plenty of work to be done before attention metrics are as prevalent as viewability.