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News Analysis 8 Jul 2021 - 6 min read

Ad effectiveness supremo Peter Field: Without 'electrifying' advertising attention data, media is dysfunctional, ad effectiveness advocates bogged

By Paul McIntyre & Danielle Long
Professor Karen Nelson-Field

Peter Field on Karen Nelson-Field's attention economy research: "It is totally insane to regard the same kind of impression on one video platform as being of equal value to a video impression on another video platform."

The near guru-status bestowed by many in adland and marketing on the advertising effectiveness work of British author and advisor Peter Field just thrust the emerging science of active and passive consumer attention toward advertising as the next great leap for the global marketing industry.

What you need to know:

  • Advertising effectiveness “godfather”, Peter Field, says the emerging Australian work on consumer attention to advertising, not impressions or a brand's share of advertising voice, is “totally electrifying”.
  • Field’s comments were made on the Advertising Council of Australia’s webcast last week launching its global benchmark study To ESOV and Beyond.
  • The first-of-its-kind research analysed the Ad Council’s Advertising Effectiveness database of campaigns to identify a "clear relationship" between a brand’s consumer mental availability, its extra share of advertising voice (ESOV) versus competitors and key business growth and metrics. 
  • It is the first time ESOV has been examined with mental availability, which the study defines as "a measure of the breadth and depth of perceptions of a brand". 
  • Mental availability is not the same as top-of-mind brand awareness. Per the Ad Council report, as brands compete for consumer mindshare and memory, advertising plays a critical role in growing mental availability. Low mental availability, per the study, is typically when a person is aware of a brand but knows nothing about it. Conversely, high mental availability is achieved when a person has both high awareness and knowledge of a brand. The result is an increased likelihood of that brand coming to mind more often during buying occasions 
  • "As the effect on mental availability increases, so do the business effects," said the study’s co-author Rob Brittain.
  • The effect of mental availability on brands was first identified by Prof. Byron Sharp and Jenni Romaniuk in their 2004 work at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute for Marketing Science at the University of South Australia. The peer-reviewed research says brands with high mental availability are more likely to achieve stronger business metrics including sales, market share, profit growth and customer acquisition and retention.
  • Per media science researcher and Amplified Intelligence CEO Karen Nelson-Field: “If brands are overspending on low attention platforms and under-spending on high attention platforms, while your competitors are doing the opposite, the principles of share of [advertising] voice will fail.” 
  • The driving forces of mental availability are budget size, media channel choice and creative strength. However, the dysfunction of the media marketplace is one of a number of threats to ad effectiveness success and Nelson-Field says it is "solely responsible for eroding the true value of ESOV for marketers”. 
  • The report calls for the use of attention metrics to adjust SOV/SOM analysis. Nelson-Field says new data confirms that attention drives mental availability – both positively and negatively.
  • The shift by brands to embrace "share of search" [Google) as a proxy for the share of a brand's advertising voice is misguided, the report says.

 

Karen Nelson-Field has tantalisingly offered us a really exciting vision of the future of advertising investment measurement in the shape of share of attention. I think this is just totally electrifying.

Peter Field

Mental as anything

A brand’s share of consumer advertising attention, not the globally accepted principle of advertising share of voice, is a “totally electrifying” development that will shape and entrench advertising effectiveness and its business impact, Peter Field told last week’s webcast from the Advertising Council Australia on its new benchmark ad effectiveness study, To ESOV and Beyond.   

To paraphrase Field on last week’s Ad Council briefing, without robust measurement and industry-wide use of attention metrics as a new critical data layer to link consumer mental availability for a brand to business impact, advertising effectiveness advocates are bogged.

Media science researcher and CEO of Amplified Intelligence, Karen Nelson-Field, joined Field and Australian ad effectiveness advisor Rob Brittain on the webcast, with evidence bluntly challenging many of the assumptions and metrics which drive current media planning and investment allocation.   

“Karen has…some very forward facing views about where we need to go,” said Field. “She's shown us that [advertising] share of voice levels alone are becoming an unreliable metric. I think that's very true because an awful lot of money out there is chasing completely unknown levels of [consumer] attention. Money is put into, particularly digital platforms, on the basis of [advertising] impressions gained rather than the genuine attention-getting value of those impressions.”

The variance in attention levels within different media platforms are “truly enormous”, added Field, citing Nelson-Field’s global work. “So it is totally insane to regard the same kind of impression on one video platform as being of equal value to a video impression on another video platform. It just makes no sense. And yet, to a large degree, that is the way the market is valuing it at the moment.”

If you're overspending on low attention platforms and underspending on high attention platforms while your competitors are doing the opposite, the principles of share of voice will fail.

Karen Nelson Field, Amplified Intelligence

Share of attention, not ad impressions

Field urged industry to account for the widely differing abilities of bigger communication channels to bring brands verified, quality advertising attention measurement and to be properly factored into media plans. 

“That is simply not the case now,” he said. “Karen has tantalisingly offered us a really, really exciting vision of the future of advertising investment measurement in the shape of share of attention. 

“I think this is just totally electrifying. I'm looking forward hugely to a future where we regularly see share of attention measurement to our campaigns. And of course, the great thing about that is it doesn't just take into account the wisdom for which we guide our media choices. It also takes account of the quality of the creative work that's all factored in there. This will give us unique ability to make well informed decisions.”

Nelson-Field told 600 Australian and global practitioners on the webcast they would be “quite horrified” if they knew the attention numbers on some digital platforms. She calls it the “viewability to attention gap”.

“This is why inward-facing proxies like viewability are flawed. They tell us little about what a human is doing,” she said. “So any effectiveness measure like share a voice that relies on clean inputs, traditionally impression data, which is a supposedly accurate measure of what humans are being exposed to will fail. 

“I'm sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you might be getting less share of voice than you think. If you're overspending on low attention platforms and underspending on high attention platforms while your competitors are doing the opposite, the principles of share of voice will fail. Because even on the surface, if it looks like you're spending the same media weight, it's what lies beneath that will let you down and your brand will quite possibly decline.”

 

Systematic sameness

Nelson-Field believes this challenge can’t be gamed by media channels and platforms. “The reality is the level of human attention paid is a functional reality of each platform and there's systematic sameness across multiple countries,” she said. “We can see this in the data we collect. So you cannot just expect to put a longer ad on a low attention platform and expect it to work. It just it doesn't work that way. And even better creative on low attention formats won’t work either.”

But Nelson-Field flagged that the work her Amplified Intelligence team are currently undertaking focuses on the ability to “layer attention data over your share of voice modelling to adjust for this performance difference.”

It is totally insane to regard the same kind of impression on one video platform as being of equal value to a video impression on another video platform.

Peter Field, co-author, To ESOV and Beyond

Indeed, it was these findings around the attention economy that dominated the unveiling of the Ad Council's research from Australia around excess share of voice (ESOV) and mental availability and the impact they have on business results. 

The study found ESOV is strongly linked to mental availability – which it argues is a competitive metric – and together, they contribute to a raft of long-term success metrics for businesses, making them critical for budget planning and investment, as well as the interpretation of results. 

"We observed a clear relationship between the extent of mental availability growth and the impact on key business metrics," said report co-author Rob Brittain. "As the effect on mental availability increases, so do the business effects. So we see larger increases in long term market share growth, in short term sales response, in customer acquisition, retention, pricing strength, and brand profit growth." 

 

Brand mental availability links to business growth 

Building mental availability is crucial for brand growth as the likelihood of a brand coming to a consumer’s mind in a relevant situation is determined by how strongly it competes with every other brand that may also fit the scenario. While advertising plays a critical role in growing mental availability, the driving forces are budget, media channels and creative strength – with the latter including attribution. 

However, the report outlines four inherent threats: that share of voice (SOV) is increasingly difficult to measure; the growing dysfunction of the media marketplace; the huge difference that strong creative makes; and share of search, which, while valuable, is not a replacement for SOV. 

“We know that there is a significant performance inequity around the delivery of human attention to advertising," said Brittain, underlining Field and Nelson Field's comments. "Buying against reach on one platform will deliver vastly different amounts of attention to advertising compared to the reach you buy on another platform, even if the CPM and OTS are the same. This makes it hard to quantify relative value.” 

 

The inequality of platform performance

Nelson-Field reiterated that media market dysfunction is the most serious threat to attention metrics and is “solely responsible for eroding the true value of ESOV for marketers”. 

“The data we use for ESOV is not even close to being commensurate with the vast performance difference between platforms. Yet these metrics are core to the accuracy of SOV/SOM analysis.” 

“[Rob Brittain] talks about how advertising plays a critical role in brand strength, but it can’t if it can’t be seen. And creative strength makes a difference, but it can’t if it can’t be seen,” said Nelson-Field.  

She said her team's research confirms that attention drives mental availability – both positively and negatively. 

“We found across multiple brands that when active attention is paid, mental availability uplift is notably positive, and the inverse is true when no active attention is paid, mental availability uplift is notably negative or at least no sizeable change. 

“We also found the uplift is achieved in line with overall platform performance. In other words, platforms that inherently deliver higher levels of attention drive more mental availability uplift. You can’t change the reality of human attention paid to different platforms, it is a functional reality of each platform."  

Nelson-Field said marketers must weigh platforms and channels against the level of attention paid to create a more realistic performance measure. 

“You can layer attention data over your share of voice modelling to adjust for this performance difference. We are optimising campaign impressions on actual attention data, which provides a new estimate of media weight and fed back into SOV analysis," she said. "This will show what you think you get versus what you actually get.”  

Buying against reach on one platform will deliver vastly different amounts of attention to advertising compared to the reach you buy on another platform, even if the CPM and OTS are the same. This makes it hard to quantify relative value.

Rob Brittain, co-author, To ESOV and Beyond

Covid: Massive shift away from building brands

The report hammers home the critical nature of brand marketing and good quality creative to drive long term business metrics, and heralds a departure from the covid-enhanced obsession with performance marketing. 

“There's been a massive shift away from brand advertising over the last year back to the bad habits of performance marketing,” said Field. “As the world rapidly emerges from recession, it's a really important time to remind marketers of the immense value of brand advertising.”

“[The report] has shown that ESOV and mental availability contribute to important business outcomes, such as pricing. We don't just drive volume, we also drive margin and the two together obviously have a vitally important impact on profitability. We know that mental availability is not built through performance marketing, it is a unique benefit of brand marketing. So, this is a timely wake-up call to marketers after a year of hunkering down to get back to investing in their brands.” 

Field said effective marketers need to drive “adequate investment, well-guided media choices, and top-flight creative. And if you're not doing all three, then you expose yourself to the risk of one of your competitors outgunning you".

Otherwise, they may struggle to power out of recessionary impacts as consumer and business confidence starts to recover.

"We all know that advertising plays a critical role in creating and converting demand for brands. So, this is a really important moment in time for our industry. The key question that many marketers have right now is how do you determine the level of advertising investment that you need in order to capitalise on this growth?" said Brittain. 

“As brands rise, others will fall. We know that brands with higher mental availability have higher market share. And this is quite simply because they're winning the battle in memory," Brittain added.

“Mental availability is a competitive metric. That's why we need to constantly focus on growing it. It's also why the balance between brand building and sales activation activity is so important to brand growth as brand building builds mental availability, that's its job. It increases the strength and breadth of perceptions of the brand, while sales activation exploits mental availability. It leverages those perceptions, but it doesn't really strengthen them, it's all about exploitation," he said.

"It's the equivalent of sowing your seeds and then harvesting them."

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Paul McIntyre & Danielle Long

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