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The Paradox of Attention: Why Duration-Based Attention Metrics (DBAM) Are Not What They Seem

Explore why traditional attention metrics fall short in truly engaging audiences.

As brands draft their game plans for 2024, it’s time to think beyond traditional approaches. The new playbook blends AI and automation, aiming not just to capture attention, but to engage audiences on a deeper level.

As we see across our community of advertising partners, there’s a shift from mere attention metrics to a broader understanding of audience interaction. To go deeper on this topic, we’ll cover a straightforward model to help you harness solid data for better insight into how your ads resonate—how they make people feel, think, and remember.

The Roller-Skating Babies and the Jumping Balls of San Francisco

If you are a marketing aficionado or even a casual consumer of media, then you’d remember those eye-catching ads – babies on roller skates cruising through Central Park, or a flood of colorful balls bouncing down San Francisco’s streets.

These decades-old ads, by Evian and Sony Bravia respectively, were viral sensations in their time. They captured attention, were shared, garnered acclaim, and were the talk of the town.

But here’s the kicker: almost no one remembered the brands behind these ads. A standing ovation for the performance, but the stars were forgotten.

The Rise of Attention Metrics

These days, when internet cookies are crumbling and privacy concerns are putting tracking on the back burner, the advertising world is on the hunt for the next big metric.

Duration-Based Attention Metrics (DBAM) seemed promising: the longer someone spends with an ad or brand-related asset, the better it must be performing, right? But as with many things in life, it’s not that simple.

The Double-Edged Sword of Attention

Attention, while a valuable commodity, is a tricky beast. On one hand, high DBAM can be a sign of genuine interest and engagement.

On the other, it can be a red flag for confusion, frustration, or even annoyance. In a series of studies by Ericsson, Vodafone, and Neurons, delays in screen and video loading led to emotional responses akin to watching a horror movie. Not exactly the positive brand association companies aim for.

Moreover, even when an ad captures attention for all the right reasons, it can still miss the mark. Attention to the brand is decent in only half of all ads. In the other half, it’s below 4%.

So just because an ad is memorable doesn’t mean the brand is. The roller-skating babies and bouncing balls are a testament to that.

Bridging Attention with Emotions, Cognition, and Memory

Sticking solely to attention metrics will likely leave you navigating through a tunnel vision, potentially missing out on better conversion rates and metrics that truly matter for the business. While it’s essential to gauge how long someone engages with an ad or asset, it’s equally crucial to understand emotional, cognitive, and memory responses.

This realization led to the inception of the 4 Power Model, a collaboration of Neurons and Stanford University. Rooted in rigorous research, this model seamlessly integrates attention with emotions, cognition, and memory, offering a holistic view of an ad’s impact.

To have an impact, marketers should consider all four powers of effective advertising, instead of solely focusing on attention. Here are the four key questions that marketers should consider when launching ads:

  1. Attention: Does your asset command and retain attention? Does it effectively convey key information, making viewers pause and engage?
  2. Emotion: Does your asset evoke the desired emotions? Does it pique curiosity while steering clear of negative sentiments?
  3. Cognition: Is your message clear and comprehensible? Is it free from information clutter and ambiguity?
  4. Memory: Beyond being memorable, does your asset ensure that viewers recall the brand and its core message?

The Way Forward: A Three-Step Recommendation

The advertising arena is ever-evolving, and while DBAM offers a glimpse into engagement, it doesn’t tell the full story. Brands can’t afford to launch campaigns based on gut feelings or outdated metrics. Here’s my three-step guide to ensure your campaigns resonate effectively:

  1. Broaden Your Scope Beyond Attention: While attention is a critical component, it’s just one piece of the puzzle. Embrace the 4 Power Model as a holistic approach that also includes emotions, cognition, and memory to truly understand your audience’s engagement.
  2. Use Predictive Tools: Traditional surveys only scratch the surface. Dive deeper by leveraging the latest predictive AI tools that offer insights into genuine consumer responses, going beyond mere stated feedback.
  3. Make Data-Driven Decisions: Armed with a wealth of insights, leverage data to refine your strategies. Go beyond traditional DBAM and optimize your campaigns for maximum impact and conversion.

A more holistic approach, paired with predictive tools, can help ensure ads do more than just catch the eye – they make a lasting impression. After all, what’s the point of grabbing attention if it doesn’t lead to brand recognition and eventually, conversion?

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Thomas Zoëga Ramsøy

CEO and Founder of Neurons Inc. A neuropsychologist by training and a Ph.D

Thomas Zoëga Ramsøy is the CEO and Founder of Neurons Inc. A neuropsychologist by training and a Ph.D. in neurobiology and neuroimaging, Thomas is considered a leading figure in applied neuroscience. Through collaboration with leading universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Stanford, and Harvard, his work has focused on employing a combination of psychology and neuroscience to understand what drives our choices and behaviors. Thomas consults leading companies to employ the insights from neuroscience to drive strategic change, both in tech companies like Google and Facebook, retail companies like Lowe’s, IKEA, and Tesco, and in domains such as architecture, leadership, and clinical trials. He is also a published author of the books “Leading Transformation” and “Købehjernen”.

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