First published by Mediatel News on 9 September 2021.

Karen Nelson-Field offers a blueprint for users of audience measurement who recognise the significance of a changing media economy. 

Legend has it that one day in the golden age of Hollywood, frustrated on set and running out of time, an influential film maker named David Griffith started shouting at the crew ‘lights, camera, action’.

These were the three crucial things needed (in that order) to make movie magic – adequate preparation of lighting, rolling cameras and actors on their mark.

It might be an oversimplification of standard operating movie-making protocol, but these three little words symbolise preparation for realisation of a goal. Just like ‘on your mark, get set…go’, or ‘ignition sequence start, all engines running…lift-off’.

I think about the last five to 10 years in audience measurement in the same way.

When I look back over several years I can see the time when we as an industry realised we needed to ‘adjust our lights’. A time when it became apparent that our trading currency was in crisis and media buying was anything but illuminated and transparent.

I look at the past couple of years in attention measurement as getting our cameras working and ready to roll.

During this time, methodologies and technologies were being re-calibrated to move away from traditional recall or viewability-based measures of engagement. Preparing for the move towards passive solutions that track real human attention without reliance on cookies.

Also throughout this time, attention metrics have been validated as valuable by showing significant and repeatable improvement in ad effectiveness over legacy metrics. Norms have been founded and methodological best practices have been established.

Which means, that it’s now time for action. The final step to new measurement lift-off.

But unlike Hollywood and NASA, where actors and astronauts have been well-trained to deliver, buyers of media have had little instruction on the application of attention metrics.

There are no college degrees teaching advanced metrics, few barely cover legacy metrics.

So this article is a basic blueprint for users of audience measurement who recognise the significance of a changing media economy.

It’s a simple snapshot on what I consider the action stage will look like and where the attention ecosystem will land.

Before we start, a reminder that the ultimate problem we are solving for here is a currency problem. And our currency is failing because the relative value of one reach point over another can’t be quantified.

This means that any measurement system, model, methodology or concept that relies on equitable impressions will fail. So, at its core, attention data is used as an index of, prediction of, or discovery of equitable performance.

There are three core verticals that fall within media practices requiring equitable impressions: Planning, Buying and Measurement. 


Attention data provides deep understanding to help direct investment and media dollars for maximum effectiveness.

This can be applied to media plans, Share of Voice budgeting and creative planning.

Data can be available by web platform or API system integration and is often provided as an index of equitable performance.


Deep and rigorous attention data can be used to build probabilistic models for the purpose of predicting attention on digital ad inventory at the point of the transaction on programmatic platforms.

This means that an advertiser can reduce wastage by rejecting placements with low attention or increase bids on placements predicted to return higher attention, in real-time. 


Attention data can be used to build tag-based technology to predict the attention performance of an impression after it is delivered.

This may be used as a verification of the accuracy of a pre-bid model or to test the performance of different platforms and campaigns.

In the real world, planning a single well-timed trajectory for fundamental change is a luxury. Business has a funny way of side-tracking even the most inflexible plans. We think it’s important to offer a number of ways to use attention along the media trading journey rather than slam a ‘one size fits all’ solution down on your desk. 

I’m hoping this article will help order your thoughts and offer some idea of how the attention measurement future might look.

Change is hard, but if you have some idea of what is coming up next, it’s easier to take the leap and adjust your thinking.