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News Plus 28 Sep 2021 - 4 min read

As four global holdcos sign-up to Karen Nelson-Field’s attention platform, Melbourne indie Hatched goes all in, prepares for programmatic attention trading

By Paul McIntyre & Brendan Coyne

Attention works: Hatched Managing Partner, Stephen Fisher; Prof. Karen Nelson-Field; Cars24 Chief Customer Offcier Erin Williamson

Four of the major ad holding companies have struck deals to use Professor Karen Nelson-Field’s attention platform. But Melbourne-based independent agency Hatched is stealing a lead, hitching its business to the attention economy and metrics – and trials are delivering bumper results for its client brands. Now it's eyeing programmatic attention trading. 

What you need to know:

  • Karen Nelson-Field’s Amplified Intelligence has signed global agreements with four of the six major ad holding groups.
  • But Melbourne-based Hatched is an Australian agency which has put attentionTRACE at the heart of planning.
  • Managing Partner Stephen Fisher said the platform is changing spend and channel allocations.
  • Fisher: "We see this as a seismic shift, because if you're planning around active or passive attention, you're fundamentally shifting key objectives."
  • Brands such as Cars24 say focusing on attention is helping to drive “best month” and “best day” results.
  • Now Hatched wants to programmatically trade on “attention seconds”. Nelson-Field said it may not have long to wait.

From focusing planning on ‘active attention seconds’, we’re already seeing how channel mix changes and how you do things differently. Once we can apply that to actual trading, it takes a step forward – and that is the reason we have invested, because of what is to come.

Stephen Fisher, Managing Partner, Hatched

“Attention seconds” are the future, according to Hatched Managing Partner, Steven Fisher, with the agency moving away from legacy measures of reach and frequency and shifting spend to channels that hold eyeballs and drive action – with client brands willing to pay more, provided results follow.

Now Hatched – which serves brands including AIA Insurance, CPA Australia, Dairy Australia, Judo Bank, Kennards Hire, Mirvac, Open Universities Australia and Vision Super – wants to programmatically trade on engagement metrics.

“When you get to that point, you change how agencies work,” said Fisher. “As an industry, we’ve been using a lot of proxies, viewability and other things. But we already see this as a seismic shift, because if you're planning around active or passive attention, you're fundamentally shifting key objectives.

“From focusing planning on ‘active attention seconds’, we’re already seeing how channel mix changes and how you do things differently. Once we can apply that to actual trading, it takes a step forward – and that is the reason we have invested [in attentionTRACE], because of what is to come.”

Nelson-Field hinted that the likes of Hatched – and the global holdcos – may not have long to wait, with the executional aspect of ‘attentionTrace’ now in development.

While that will require buyers to become accustomed to trading beyond traditional metrics and currencies, Fisher said Hatched’s teams are primed. Locally, he thinks early mover media owners such as Nine, which two weeks ago announced it will develop tradeable attention metrics with Nelson-Field, will then “start to extract higher yields”.

It's not about the cost, it's about the effectiveness ... and the proof is in the pudding.

Erin Williamson, Chief Customer Officer, Cars24

Some brands agree – and are willing to pay more to move the needle.

Cars24 is one of the first Australian brands to use the attentionTRACE platform via Hatched. The Indian firm launched in Australia earlier this year bidding to take on Carsales and Drive. Chief Customer Officer Erin Williamson needs to boost awareness and performance, fast.

Williamson said Hatched’s attention-focused channel planning is delivering rapid payback, with September its “biggest month to date” and Monday this week its “best ever sales day” on the back of the AFL Grand Final.

“I had high expectations going in, but this has exceeded them. So I think [the Grand Final] was a very smart buy, backed with tools like AttentionTRACE to make sure it’s doubly effective,” said Williamson. “It’s a very positive trajectory.”

The results, per Williamson, outweigh the perceived higher cost of media that commands greater attention.

“It's not about the cost, it's about the effectiveness,” said Williamson. “It is to what degree is the consumer firstly aware of the message, but then soaking in the proof points that I want to tell them … And the proof is in the pudding.”

Attention seconds: active and passive

Amplified Intelligence's attentionTRACE technology, built on eye tracking data from publishers and platforms around the world, shows advertisers what levels of consumer advertising attention are delivered by different media channels and platforms. 

The metric looks at passive and active attention to determine what works and where.

So far, the SaaS platform works across TV, video and mobile. But cinema, out of home and press are in the works.

The ultimate aim is to deliver a tradeable metric – attention seconds – while plugging into existing ad tech supply chains to give bidders an indication of which spots are worth more or less, based on whether people are likely to pay active or passive attention to those ads.

"Active attention is effectively when people are looking directly at ads, which delivers the strongest results for brands," said Nelson-Field. "Passive attention is when ads are in eyesight, though not necessarily being looked at. But at least it is in your peripheral vision. You process things that are around you peripherally and the impact is passive, but it's not quite as strong as actually seeing something and operating against it actively.”

Which indicates a two-speed attention economy, with active eyeballs commanding a premium.

According to Nelson-Field, attentionTRACE effectively gives brands a measure of “how many seconds of active attention, passive attention, or non-attention a single channel and its relative formats achieve in certain markets across different demographics”.

Nelson-Field said it is “too soon” to call it an attention ‘currency’ and fears spooking industry, “because that means you throw everything out that you've ever used”.

For now, “it's just an extra piece in the mix. It's not a currency as it stands, and the reason it can't be a currency is because ‘CPM’ is actually not commensurate with performance, nor is reach,” said Nelson Field. “When it all starts to become aligned, then potentially those metrics might move forward as the new measures of success … But we are definitely on the precipice of change.”

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