Media Buying Briefing: Holding companies and attention metrics, a KPI or a currency?

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The media agency world seems to be in agreement that attention metrics can be an important metric to factor into planning and executing campaigns for clients. In some cases, clients are even pushing their media agencies to adopt attention metrics at a faster clip. 

But the ways in which attention metrics are being put to use by media shops is heading in different directions, depending on the holding company media agencies. To oversimplify, it boils down to whether they’re using it as a KPI or a currency. 

How a media agency answers that question leads some in the industry to worry that standardization of attention terminology and practices will prove elusive, and thereby become an impediment to further adoption and understanding. 

“There will be some conflict in some holding companies to use attention to leverage better CPMs with platforms and publishers,” said Max Kalehoff, vp of marketing and growth at RealEyes, an attention metrics provider. “However, the real prize is in better outcomes for advertisers and better experiences for consumers (not lower-cost CPMs). Attention is a highly powerful signal, though unlikely to become a hard currency.” 

“It seems like there are two distinct factions – the first comprised of agencies who started using attention for research and planning. They’ve been more active at Cannes and CES and thus seen as having a leadership position in the space,” said Marc Guldimann, CEO of Adelaide, one of several firms providing attention metric tools to agencies, media companies and marketers. 

“The second faction has been more focused on using attention to drive efficiency via measurement and activation. While they’ve been quieter, it’s notable that these agencies have measured and optimized hundreds of campaigns and one has already started offering attention-based guarantees.”

Here is how each holding company has approached the incorporation of attention into the flow of work for clients:


Five years ago, Dentsu launched a research practice around attention, studying it carefully before starting to apply it — and just last week the media agency network conducted internal and external training to help spread the gospel of attention. 

Much like Omnicom, its attention efforts flow predominantly through its centralized data platform, M1, and partners include Lumen Research and Amplified Intelligence. Joanne Leong, senior vp of global partnerships there, explained that following “in the wild” tests of thousands of panelists working with Lumen, Dentsu has generated two sets of outputs: a database of norms and benchmarks that helps to find CPM efficiencies through gains in attention uplift and a predictive model that gets applied to impression-level data to determine better recall. Dentsu is also doing some testing around guarantees around attention.

As that becomes a bigger part of the planning process, Leong believes standardization is key. “In order for attention to be this bigger thing in the industry, I think that there needs to be standards in place, because then you can have the buy side and the sell side talking the same language,” she said. 

Havas Media

The French owned holding company has put multiple efforts around attention into play, some in North America and some on a global scale out of Europe, but focused more on leveraging attention as a KPI than a currency. Working predominantly with Lumen in Europe and Adelaide here in the U.S., Havas is molding attention into its broader “meaningful media” MX planning process — coming up with a meaningful attention unit, said Mike Bregman, chief data officer at Havas Media Group North America. 

“For us, it’s content and connections, which was the original premise of the meaningful experience,” he said, adding that Havas is bringing this to clients before they ask about it. “We’re now trying to figure out how to create quantitative measures around that, and attention is the starting block of how we get there as an agency.”


While IPG hasn’t taken a holding-company-wide approach, MediaHub (which was just folded into Mediabrands) has actively engaged attention metrics for clients including the NBA. Ed McElvain, evp of P3 at Mediahub, overseeing digital and data-driven buying, previously told Digiday the shop is also working to incorporate attention into the programmatic buying process. “It allows the traders to focus on other attributes of the campaign that we want to look at, like contextual alignment, supply path and bid pricing,” he said.


As IPG did with Mediahub, Omnicom Media Group is letting its OMD media agency lead the charge on operationalizing and scaling attention, led by OMD CEO Chrissie Hanson (who most recently was chief strategy officer). All attention work flows through Omni, the holding company’s marketing orchestration platform, as Dentsu does with M1. But that’s where the similarities end. Hanson noted that OMD has put attention to use in 11 markets, across 13 categories and 25 brands. “That’s how we operationalize the work,” she said. “Because what we have shown is that optimizing to attention lifts KPIs, it improves performance, and it reduces waste. It is a planning metric that does deliver value consistently.”

Britt Cushing, OMD’s managing director and head of communications planning, added that the agency’s attention requirement calculator, leveraged through Omni, takes into consideration elements such as brand maturity, newness of the creative message and clutter in the ad’s environment to pick the best possible outcome. “We do need to take that extra step within Omni to have the attention requirement calculator [understand] that nuance specific to the brand’s campaign,” said Cushing.


Although Publicis didn’t make an executive available to talk about its efforts on attention, several sources reached for this story said Publicis will “likely will surprise with thoroughness when they do” declare their efforts in the area. A Publicis Media rep would only say, “In a world that’s so laser focused on driving business outcomes, we’re actively evolving to metrics that are less media centric (counting things) to more consumer action centric (selling things).”


Attention is primarily being put to use through media agency network GroupM’s EssenceMediacom and Xaxis platform, said a source within GroupM who declined to speak for attribution, who noted the company has focused less on getting press attention and more on getting attention to work successfully in the buy-sell process. Xaxis Switzerland has been using Adelaide’s attention data to create a customized attention algorithm that enabled media purchases to be optimized for attention — but much of the learnings are being shared across global teams within GroupM. The focus, said the source, is to get closer to activation based on attention-based values.  

Beyond the traditional holdcos, other agency groups are actively working with firms like Lumen or Amplified Intelligence, and the ARF may end up getting involved in helping the attention industry hammer out standardization.

But ultimately what attention work within holding companies might end up accomplishing is the further breaking down of media and creative silos. Because attention doesn’t work if it doesn’t work closely with the creative process.

As one of the sources for this story told Digiday, a Carl’s Jr. burger ad featuring women in bikinis may generate a lot of attention — but it won’t necessarily sell burgers.

Color by numbers

Mobile app marketing platform Liftoff contends in a new mobile ad report that longer video ads do better than shorter ones. The company analyzed some 1 trillion impressions across 240 million installs in the last year across five verticals – gaming, e-commerce, finance, entertainment and dating/social. Turns out there is a sweet spot for how long the video ad should run, in order to optimize mobile user acquisition and engagement. — Antoinette Siu

More stats:

  • On average, brands saw up to 50% higher conversions using longer videos compared to shorter ones.
  • Videos between 31 to 60 seconds long saw performance increases, such as generating app installs. Mobile user acquisition managers are adding longer videos of up to 60 seconds to their creative.
  • With an average CPI of $1.31, playable ads were by far the most cost-effective option to drive gaming app installs, the report found. Videos work well for showing the user experience.
  • For entertainment, especially on Android devices, native ads were the most cost-effective. Banner and video ads cost the same per install on iOS, but banner ads are a better deal on Android ($2.04 versus $10.13 on iOS). Streaming apps, in contrast, might do better with interstitial ads. 

Takeoff & landing

  • WPP reported 2022 earnings last week that looked solid and largely in line with other holding companies. Like-for-like net revenue grew 6.9% over 2021 to 11.8 billion pounds (within that GroupM grew 9.1%) , while operating profit grew 10.5% to 1.36 billion pounds. Profit margin inched up from 14.4% to 14.8%. The holding company predicts 3-5% revenue growth in 2023 and for margins to reach 15%. 
  • In account wins, Dentsu’s Carat landed Del Taco as a new client, adding to its work with parent Jack in the Box; and IPG’s Mediabrands won Geico after that client spent 29 years at Horizon Media.
  • Gary Vaynerchuk launched his own conference, VeeCon, a three-day conference that will touch on business, technology and pop culture, featuring the likes of Busta Rhymes and Deepak Chopra (presumably not together). The three-day event will be held May 18-20 in Indianapolis.

Direct quote

“There are many relatively new large businesses rooted in the technology industry who are likely continuing to scale up their spending on external services as they mature. Agencies’ newer offerings related to data and business transformation are also undoubtedly driving revenue growth, as these are critical areas of focus for agencies’ primary clients. As time progresses, these activities offer the potential for agencies to more meaningfully broaden their client bases to include individuals not presently overseen by chief marketing officers. Finally, expanding principal-based trading solutions and other managed services offered by agencies are also becoming increasingly important across the industry, as marketers – now better versed in the pros and cons of such products – seem increasingly willing to embrace them.”

— Independent analyst Brian Wieser explaining in his newsletter the factors that could influence future growth among agency holding companies.

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