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Attention in all its forms has inherent value. A teacher needs the attention of her students to help them learn. A parent needs his child to pay attention when teaching them how to safely cross a road. Likewise, publishers, platforms and all content makers need consumers to pay attention so they can prove the ad time and space sold to marketers can help move the sales needle.

Omnicom’s OMD is on a mission to turn all the intellectual effort that’s gone into considering attention as a metric into activation and a usable KPI. Omnicom Media Group’s newly elevated global CEO Florian Adamski hinted strongly that attention is a vital element in gauging effectiveness for clients in media when Digiday spoke with him recently. “We need a better way of understanding how consumers react to certain formats, platforms and devices,” said Adamski. “So attention planning is going to be one of our core initiatives going forward, and we need to redefine the outcomes of what we do.”

Working with Australian audience measurement firm Amplified Intelligence, led by founder and CEO Karen Nelson-Field, OMD is working to codify attention-related levels of behavior. Amplified Intelligence’s app, AttentionTRACE, which is up and running in 10 countries at between 500 and 3,000 users per country, enables the camera on a phone, TV set or tablet to film the consumer watching ads (and seeks three levels of consent from the consumer before activating the camera). From the observed behaviors, three levels of attention have been determined:

Active, in which the user is looking directly at the ad
Passive, in which the user is looking at the screen but not the ad
Non-attention, in which the user isn’t looking at the screen at all
From that information, the degree of mental availability — the likelihood of a particular brand coming to mind when a consumer is looking to purchase something — can be determined, which is then applied to the brand’s message to help bolster short-term advertising strength.

“One of the big learnings is around how much time it takes to get mental availability, to shift from simply a nudge into something that is more lasting and meaningful, that leads to brand growth,” said Chrissie Hanson, chief strategy office for OMD Worldwide. “And it’s three to four seconds. That is both really reassuring and then also it can be quite startling. It prompts a really interesting discussion with your creative partners.”

The importance of the creative side isn’t lost on Melanie Norris, managing director and head of planning at Omnicom sibling BBDO Worldwide. “It starts with the inextricable link between creative effectiveness and platform performance in helping us get to the right attention,” said Norris. “This data leads us to a depth of insight into attention that… we can activate against and really attract the right attention and think about which platforms and channels are right for which brands. Every client has a different problem.”

Though Amplified Intelligence is working with multiple agencies across several holding companies as well as several publishers, progress with Omnicom has been the most significant. “We’ve worked with [Hanson] and team across not only just understanding how much attention is paid by platform or by format, but also answering some quite big questions around what does the distribution of attention look like? How does this relate to short-term advertising strength versus mental availability, which is the gold standard for brand growth, essentially? We’ve got lots more to do, but yeah, it’s kind of fun.”

Several of OMD’s clients are on board with testing attention out. “Understanding how our messages break through with guests is a critical metric and something we assess to understand the impact of our work across our campaigns,” said Francesca Cardarelli, senior director, marketing planning & digital marketing strategy of McDonald’s Canada. “Evaluating our content and media placements through the lens of attention is a natural extension of this process, and will help assure that our investments are resulting in meaningful attention from our guests.”

Added David Jiménez, advertising manager for Renault Mexico: “Working with OMD and Amplified Intelligence, we’re gaining insight into attention ceilings for different digital formats and platforms — knowledge that’s critical to winning the high early attention that drives both sales and share.”

One caution AI’s Nelson-Field: for attention to affect sales, the messaging still needs to fit the platform and the mission. “Attention might be the metric of the moment. But at the end of the day, if the brand isn’t clearly articulated, it’s going to not have a relationship with an outcome,” she said. “Attention is a way for your brand to flourish in both performance and brand marketing, but it still is up to the creative in the message and the agency to get that right.”