Thank you for your attention, the future of media

As global ad spend continues its recovery, Thomas Le Thierry, EMEA CEO of Media at dentsu international, says a new media value system is needed

The global ad spend is back to recovery and we are forecasting a 4.6% global ad spend growth in 2023. However, this growth needs to be purposeful. John Wanamaker’s famous quote from the late 1800’s “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half” continues to ring true.

Over the last three decades of my career in marketing, media continues to be the biggest marketing spend companies allocate. However, with the increasing complexity and fragmentation of the media landscape, the ad ban solutions and the decreasing attention span from consumers, many ads become wallpaper and brands are battling fiercely for their target audience’ scarce resource — their attention. We get what we measure. We must improve brand communications’ effectiveness and build a more purposeful experience for customers creating more sustainable media value for our industry. We need to plan and execute and buy against attention. It needs to become a trading metric. We need to become accountable for delivering attention.

New media value system based on audience attention

What is your ad worth? A complicated and highly debated question marketers continue to debate. The current industry planning systems consider most impressions equal. The same ‘reach’ on television versus in-feed social can come at vastly different costs but is valued subjectively, often based on the perceptions and experience of individual planners — that is no longer good enough. We cannot carry on providing impressions as a benchmark and have CMOs struggling to demonstrate measurable impact back to the business. It is time we reimagine a new value system based on attention.

Why attention? Because capturing your target audience’s attention is the start point of their customer journey. By measuring “effective attentive seconds,” we can better understand, measure, and optimise ads based on recall and purchase intent.

Applicable insights from Attention Economy

Throughout our extensive research on attention using eye-tracking technology and research panels analysing individual video exposure across linear TV, in-feed videos on social media and pre-roll on video platforms, there are three insights that marketers can implement into their media planning and larger marketing plan today:

  • Viewability does not equal viewed – For most formats, the % of viewable impressions reported are higher than the % of ads that actually got attention. There are other circumstances as well where ads get noticed and drive uplifts in recall and choice but are not considered viewable. As such, viewability is an arbitrary attention proxy. Marketers must be aware that both device and platform where ads appear matter significantly. Attention is contextual so understanding your target audience consumer behaviour should be at the core of all your marketing strategy and execution.
  • The art and science of marketing must work synergistically to maximise attention — an eye-catching creative continues to be the biggest driver of how hard attention works. Using data to optimise creative effectiveness and content personalisation drives higher attention rates.
  • Earned attention is more effective — duration can be a strong indicator of attention quality when it is voluntary. Just because an ad can’t be skipped means the viewer was paying attention throughout the duration. In addition, shorter video ads can be equally efficient when the audience is engaged so re-optimizing towards attention rather than impression yields better returns.

In sum, start your media plan with a human truth and translate it into differentiating creatives and deliver and measure them through an attention-based approach, you can then report back to the business on the effectiveness of your brand exposure.

A more meaningful and sustainable media ecosystem

We have the data, technology and creative experts to bridge the gap between metric and human behaviour and shift to an attention-based ecosystem. Without joining the ongoing competing schools of thought on measuring marketing effectiveness (think Mark Ritson vs Byron Sharp) that is turning our industry into a science experiment, my responsibility is to ensure every media dollar my clients are investing is mindfully spent. Measuring how audiences pay attention to advertising not only improves marketers’ decision-making process but also creates more meaningful experiences for consumers. It’s time for all parties, from both selling and buying sides, to come together and take bold and courageous moves to foster a more sustainable media industry.

Thomas Le Thierry

Thomas Le Thierry is the EMEA CEO of Media at dentsu international. He has been with the dentsu family for more than 25 years and held a number of senior leadership positions including CEO of two dentsu leadership brands Vizeum and Carat in France.In 2021, Thomas was appointed Global President of the Vizeum network joining the dentsu brand board. His responsibility includes the definition of the vision and ambition for the network, driving client leadership as well as building the Network’s reputation. He is one of the founding directors of Vizeum launching the agency in France in 2003.Born in France, Thomas has spent his childhood living in Asia, Africa and Latin America. He has 4 children, lives with his family on an ecologic resort which he has built by the ocean in the south west of his own country.

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