Making Science

Brightfish, Profacts and Lumen create 'attention CPM' ad measurement metric

David Murphy

Three companies  - Brightfish, Profacts and Lumen - have partnered to develop one, unified measurement for the ad industry, across different media including TV, cinema, press and online. They have named the new measurement attention CPM (aCPM). It’s a measure of the cost per thousand seconds of attention.

Brightfish is a cinema advertising saleshouse for Belgium; Profacts, a Belgian market research agency whose work includes eye- facial muscles- and heartrate-tracking; and Lumen is another research company, specializing in eye tracking on multiple media types.

The three companies questioned the current ‘opportunity to see’ (OTS) measurement methodology for ads, asking whether advertisers should pay for ads that consumers never had a realistic chance of seeing, and whether ‘viewability’ or ‘visibility’ is the right measurement to use? They came to the conclusion that what should be measured is the number of people who actually see the ad and engage with it. This in turn led to a study to establish the reach and ad cost when the engagement with the ad is taken into account.

This, they argue, is an important issue, because not all ads are perceived equally. Rather, our ability to notice and engage with ads in some media is much larger than with others. The companies note that we have an intuitive feeling that an ad in the cinema will receive more concentrated attention than a banner ad on a website, even when the OTS of the two ads is the same. We also assume that the quality of this engagement is different, though currently there is no way to quantify these differences.

Based on this premise, Brightfish commissioned Profacts and Lumen to investigate this issue, using eye-tracking technology. The key question was: what is the likelihood of consumers actually seeing ‘viewable or visible’ advertising across different media, including TV, cinema, press and online? The anticipated result was a unified metric to determine the real impact of media.

Getting noticed
The results of the eye tracking research revealed considerable differences in both the opportunity to view an ad, and the quality of attention the ad receives. The first challenge advertisers face is getting people to notice the ads.

“A viewable or visible online ad has a 22 per cent chance of being noticed, meaning that consumers had at least one eye fixed on the ad,” says Lumen MD, Mike Follet. “This also means that 78 per cent of viewable digital advertising is entirely ignored.” By way of comparison, someone who is in a room with a television has a 64 per cent chance of noticing the ad playing on it, according to the study.

However, one view has no impact. Therefore, we also have to consider what the average dwell time is with ads across different media. In this respect, the study found that there are major differences between media types. The research shows that a typical viewable online ad is on screen for 21 seconds on average, a print ad for 20 seconds, and TV and cinema ads for 30 seconds.

The study also found that when someone engages with a digital ad, it is likely this is only done briefly. On average, an online ad only receives our attention for 0.3 of those 21 seconds, print ads for 1.5 seconds, TV for 6.9 seconds, and cinema for 25.5 out of the 3 seconds.

Added to this, the study found that out of the total time a digital ad is displayed, the consumer is only paying proper attention 1.4 per cent of the time. For print, the figure is 7.5 per cent, for TV it’s 23.1 per cent, and for cinema ads, 85 per cent.

Following additional research by Lumen into the relation between eye-tracking scores, memorisation and sales conversion, the companies said they also know that there is a direct correlation between those elements. “It is safe to conclude that advertisers profit from ads that are looked at longer, rather than those which are looked at more frequent but only glanced at,” says Follet.

attention CPM
The companies argue that in the light of these findings, rather than looking at the cost per thousand impressions (CPM), it makes more sense to consider the cost per thousand seconds of attention, the metric which Lumen and Brightfish named ‘the attention CPM’ (aCPM).

“In each phase of our research, we validated the results with Bernard Cools, the Chief Intelligence Officer at Space, one of the prominent media buying agencies in Belgium,” explains Brightfish marketing director, Sylvia Van Cauteren. “As an external research specialist, he offered us impartial and independent views and insights into this study, from the perspective of a media agency.

“At a CPM level, TV and cinema look expensive when compared to digital. Even when we start taking viewability into consideration, programmatic digital advertising still seems to be significantly cheaper than all other media. However, once you start calculating the actual attention ads of these media types receive, the situation is reversed. On an aCPM basis, the most ‘expensive’ media, cinema, is suddenly surprisingly affordable. By contrast, ‘inexpensive’ media, such as programmatic digital, are in fact fairly expensive. Traditional online ads are 24 times more expensive than cinema, and even programmatic ads, which were believed to be untouchable in terms of price, are 2.5 times more expensive. For a thousand ‘contacts’ in cinema you pay £2.28 per second, for TV £2.68 per second and online £54.48 per second.”

The companies argue that calculating the aCPM for different media creates a common currency of attention, allowing media planners to understand what they are really getting from each channel. They add that agencies often say that they are interested in ‘buying eyeballs’ and that up until now, they have had to use ‘opportunity to see’ as a proxy for this. Eye tracking, they argue, allows them to measure what really matters - qualitative attention and actual engagement.

David Murphy writes:
A cynic might point out that one of the companies involved in a study that concluded that,  judged by this new metric, cinema advertising is not as expensive as it might at first appear, is in the business of selling cinema ads. Nonetheless, Brightfish and the two other companies involved in developing the aCPM metric have been very open and transparent about the methodology behind it. It will be interesting to see whether other parts of the ad industry  - including programmatic, which the study shows is more expensive than usually assumed - take it on board, or, if they doubt the validity of the work, explain the flaws which they feel undermine it.