Understanding attention for maximum ROI

Editor's note: Automated speech-to-text transcription, edited lightly for clarity.

On May 24, Jeff Bander, president of eye square, gave a presentation about what meaningful attention is and what effect it has on the ROI of digital ads. He shared a little bit about the way eye square is able to measure attention to find out if it is meaningful attention. Then he took a deeper dive into Tik Tok and Instagram’s digital ads. 

Webinar transcription:

Joe Rydholm

Hi everybody and welcome to our webinar “Meaningful Attention” Because ROI Matters.” I’m Quirk’s Editor, Joe Rydholm and before we get started let’s quickly go over the ways you can participate in today’s discussion. You can use the chat tab to interact with other attendees and you can use the Q&A tab to submit questions to the presenters during the session and we will answer as many as we have time for during the Q&A portion. Our session today is presented by eye square. Enjoy the webinar!

Jeff Bander

Hello everybody. Thank you for joining us. My name is Jeff Bander. I'm the president of eye square, Inc. located in the U.S.A. I have half my time in New York, half in California. 

We're gonna talk about meaningful attention. Why? Because attention just isn't enough. And understanding attention, consumer attention today, is one of the biggest challenges that are facing researchers and advertisers right now. 

I was at a conference with ARF I presented with many other brilliant people talking about attention. And it was very, very interesting to see how people are measuring it, what they're calling attention and what they think it means and what they say it means. 

So really what we're seeing is a lot of the current metrics don't always go beyond simple attention. So our goal today is to identify attention that's more than just simple attention, attention is meaningful.

So our agenda today, briefly, I'm gonna talk about eye square. For those who don't know us, we talk about meaningful tension when it comes to social media, meaningful tension with e-commerce and then how these are combined to bring some very interesting insights on ROI. 

And then we'll go through a case study on TikTok and Instagram that I think everyone's gonna find meaningful. So from business perspective, we have short-term impulse shopping, one-time purchases, long-term goals where you want customer retention, lifetime value of a customer. And when we talk about the framework of meaningful tension, we look at it from a neuros symbiotic perspective with the mind and body. You could say that meaningful tension can be redefined as effective perception. And we believe that you have to have meaningful tension. You must have engagement. It must be an engagement. 

You know, for example, if I move my hands like this, I have your attention for a few seconds or half a second. Completely meaningless. You must get engaged. You need a deep process of the stimuli. You want better comprehension and need retention. And so if we were put into a formula, effective perception is system zero via system one and system two to get desire to action.

So the question we're gonna ask is how can we measure on a more practical level what's meaningful?

Obviously we need to understand what meaningful means first. And that is going to vary, as you'll see shortly. Let's do a poll first. What's meaningful to brands. And when it comes to attention, real simple, a, B, C or D. 

  1. Branding.

  2. Educating form.

  3. Sell more. 

  4. Ego. 

And we'll get into responses, what everyone thinks shortly. 

eye square was found in 1999 in Berlin, Germany. That's where our headquarters are. We have offices in six different countries. We focus on user experience, branded media and shopper research. I think we're up to about a hundred people right now. We work with companies globally in over 60 countries. And our groundbreaking software technology is patented in the U.S., currently being used by eight of the top 10 innovative companies listed on Grit.And I believe it, by the end of May, it'll be nine. And I'm pretty sure  within another quarter we'll have all the top 10, including some of the others. 

So when we talk about real human experience, innovative implicit research, we're a psychology-based technology company. We think that understanding how human experience in the world today has many nuances. And with the implicit and conscious experience, it's a challenge to combine them in a meaningful way and get insights that are gonna matter in the marketplace. So when you can understand what people are feeling, what they're thinking and doing, then you're gonna see the real experience. And that's really what our goal is.

So meaningful attention, we just think we must have more than just attention. It has to mean something. 

I presented at a Quirk’s Event in November, 2021. I think the first one back after the lockdown and with Helen Wolf from Colgate. And we tested three platforms, six ads, had them go through the live experience, live in context and social media, then go to the same live in context on e-commerce, our system zero technology to understand which ads drive more sales on which platform. And it was very interesting that each platform had a different ad that worked better. 

So what is live in context? Instead of asking people what they're going to do, we're gonna measure what they actually do in an environment where they don't know what's being tested. And we're gonna be able to deliver details about the path to purchase that no retailer would normally share or even has access to.

What we're measuring really is attention, interest and purchase. You can be tested anywhere mobile or desktop, and you can test hypotheses that you may not want competitors to know about in a very safe environment and understand what's gonna work in the marketplace. 

We're gonna start with the combination, what we call add to cart, the social media, live in context and e-commerce. And then we'll break down individually. Very simple. 

We've worked with respondents, they're picked from anywhere. We're using panel companies on your clients or who you want to be clients. And they'll go through screening criteria, then we take them to social media where we inject in the third position in the live content and we pull off the API the ad that's being tested. We made it easy here cause we put in eye square headphones there so you can see what it is. And they'll scroll, do whatever they want. If it's Facebook, they can engage the audio. There's 20 behavioral metrics we measure. Did they click on it, make it full screen share, etc. 

Then we will take them to an e-commerce site, in this case Amazon and have them type in the category, same exact procedure. They type in the category. We pull off the API, the live content, we control the content too. We can just, you can let us know we wanted to be near this competitor or this competitor. And then we asked them, put something in the cart. And you can see this would put the iPhone, the eye square headphones. And once they put something in the cart, it'll then go to the survey. 

We measure everything first, attention. How long was that product on screen on the search result page? That's attention interest. Did they click on it and go to the product detail page? Then on the product detail page, did it go through the carousel? Did they click on anything? How long were they, wherever they were, we're measuring all the behavior on the whole point of sale. And then did they put it in the cart?

So again, behavioral shopping metrics, what consumers actually do, not what they say they're going to do. And again, the awareness, consideration, purchase, which is typically in every single survey, asking people what they're gonna do. We think what's important is what they actually do when they don't know what's being tested is much more meaningful than what they say they're gonna do. Study flow, very simple. This was Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. They go through the experience on social media. Then we take them to e-commerce and understand which ads and which platform drive more sales. 

So we started this on social media mainly because that's where all the ad dollars were going. Pretty much any social media site that's used we're testing on, we started, you know, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube. We added TikTok, which is growing amazingly. It's the fastest growing social media site right now. And this is the process as I showed you in the video, just getting a little clearer view. Take the Facebook look at it as you would naturally. 

There's no app to download, there's no login necessary. It's all done in a browser. Very simple. And the time that they're exposed to the ad is based on the ad. If it's a six second ad, it'll be different than a minute or a 30 second ad. They browse into whatever they want to do. And again, what we're gonna be measuring is attention and interest, time in view and any interaction. And then after the time period, they'll be taken to a survey. 

We measure over 20 behavioral metrics. This is a snapshot, but something that's really important. If you're testing video, when did they drop off? What didn't they see? 

In this case, this was an ad on YouTube and Facebook 60 second ad. And you can see that more people saw 75% of the ad on YouTube than saw it at all on Facebook. Now granted on YouTube you have a five second forced exposure. But if you look over here, you'll see that the average skip time was 13 seconds before they went somewhere else. We're gonna know when they turned on the audio on Facebook, how long did they do it? This is a very powerful way to understand behavior.

 So you're gonna get in the shopping, we're gonna be able to tell share, purchase time of purchase. How long was the product in the searchers old duration product detail page and then the articulated responses. 

We test now in over a hundred new sites. And this is growing globally. 

Now when it comes to e-commerce, we started with social media, then we went to e-commerce because  when the lockdown happened e-commerce exploded. It was already growing. And then we basically realize, let's use this as a combination, but in e-commerce, we take them to the  e-commerce site, we pull off the API and the live content we inject in third, fourth position. And we control all the environment, who you wanna be near, and then we have them make a purchase. So what do we measure?

We have full control over all the pages and all the elements. You can test new products before they roll out, A/B  testing, very, very clean, new product, new package, all package pricing. You'll see shortly all the different things that you can test. You're gonna get a single source data set. Combining what they do and what they say they're gonna do. You can test anywhere, mobile, desktop and very fast turnaround time. 

You can test everything as I mentioned. Search result page, product detail page, the tiles, the ads on a search result page, A+. Many people are testing. Should I spend money on this A+ ad. Test with the ad test without the ad? See how, what effect does that ad have on purchase?

Skip this test for time purposes. 

So what do we answer? How do new products perform in a competitive environment? Which package triggers more shoppers to interact, to buy what its pricing and promotion have on the conversion? And what's the optimal set in the gallery? Interesting, best practice we've seen the first image and last image gallery is seen and interacted more than the ones in the middle. Good to know. And is it worth buying A+ content?

Bottom line is what's the ROI, for the ad that you're paying for. Simple process, screening criteria. Shopping can be anywhere from a minute to 20 minutes, really depends what we're doing, what the goal of the study is. And then the survey. 

You're gonna get all the implicit shopping behavior and the KPIs and the survey. So what are some of the things that people are doing massive different variety of insights and goals and what's meaningful for them?

This was a simple test. Buy some shampoo for yourself. And how are people searching? Are they going to search? Are they going through the menu? As you can see, it varies not only in this particular case also with the ad, they don't have to click on an ad for it to be valuable. That ad being there and that ad not being there. If there's a significant jump in purchase, then that ad makes sense to buy, but you're gonna know and not guess. 

Also, the different platforms are different. Amazon, Target, and Walmart all are searched differently, whether it's the menu or through the search. Real simple, high level, takeaway, new package, current package, product and view. Very similarly, we used the IAB standard of one second for half the ad. Did they click on it, go to the product detail page that is interest.

And then did they put it in the cart significantly more? Bought the new package. Easy decision. 

This was a test done where four different ads on social media and the control had no ad. Ad three performed significantly better. 33% put it in the cart, 10 clicked on it, went to the product detail page. Very is a decision to know which ad to run on which platform. 

We do this globally. These are the e-commerce sites that we're testing on right now, and these are the different countries that we're testing them in. This is always added to based on request. 


Begin with the end of mind. What is the goal? Reverse engineer the study to answer your business question. Test ads by purchase power instead of just how much time they spent on it. And understand success varies on each platform. 

Now let's go to the TikTok case study. And this is gonna be very interesting. We believe it will be meaningful to everybody. 

So I think context testing. We wanted to test similar ads in similar formats. You're gonna have the natural advertising reception. We actually take all the content off and inject the ads into the live content.2

So the study was done. We did branding, ads and performance ads, with Samsung and Sun Bum on Instagram and TikTok. And we did the add to cart where we showed them the ad. They didn't know what's being tested and we took them to Amazon to make a purchase and we wanted to see what's meaningful. And you'll see in a minute what I mean by that. 

We tested 1,247 people in the U.S. 16 to 39, and they were all TikTok and Instagram users. 

So what did we learn? We asked some questions. What do they use the platform for? And as you can see, TikTok was high in entertainment. When you get to the influencers and information about brands, info about my friends, Instagram was much higher. So you can see the differences in why people go there. 

So when we now look, you can see the ads are in a  very similar format on Instagram and TikTok, they're all full screen ads. They all had sound and all moving images and they all had to click to play.

So when we talk about Instagram, they have a larger attention span. When you look at this number right here, which a lot of people use for attention and to use to pick which ads. 7.4 seconds they spent on the ad 5.9 on Tik tok comparatively. So it looks like Instagram's getting more attention. The question is, is it meaningful? And we’re gonna find out.  

Attention's not linear. When you look at the free ad recall, 33% higher on TikTok and recognition, 16% higher on TikTok. So if we only went by time, we'd be putting our ads on Instagram. But if we're really interested in recall and recognition, we'd be putting them on TikTok. So it's really important not just the time, but what's meaningful. 

So the platforms are different. You know, people know what to expect on Instagram, their friends and influencers and advertisers with the sender, they're immediately recognized. Now on TikTok, it's a surprise. The sequence of videos, they're random, unknown. So the advertising often has to be decoded first.

So now we do a little side note attention versus meaningful attention. When you talk about attention not always being meaningful attention, the question here was, have you seen this ad while browsing through; example, YouTube, Instagram and TikTok. The ad is shown in the questionnaire. The duration that the app was shown on YouTube, 10 seconds, Instagram seven and TikTok 5.3. Recognition completely flipped. So again, if you're only measuring attention by time, it doesn't mean that, uh, it's meaningful. We have to go a step behind just attention. 

Now, how did branding ads do versus performance ads? 

In the branding ads, the brand ad was not directly recognizable, neither the brand or the product are the center of the attention and history or seemingly universal themes addressed. Now, performance ads, brands are clearly shown, the product takes center stage and there's a story around the product and their product features are told. 

So the storytelling makes people curious and branding ads capture attention. And as you can see here, the branding ads versus performance ads and playback duration, you can see was significantly more on the branding. And this was an average of all the ads we tested.

So performance ads create a direct link to the brand and product. You can see free ad recall and performance ads versus branding. There's a significant difference. And the branding ads draw attention to the story and details. Also a meaningful difference, 79 to 65%, there's a longer view, there's a special story, more details. It's easier to recognize. 

Now, when we talk about vessel storytelling through branding ads, it strengthens sympathy and trust in a brand. The way we define sympathy, it's a summary of recommendation, modernity and prestige. 

Now, so we went through the social media and now we're gonna combine how well did those ads that they saw the branding and performance ads do in selling a product. So again, as I showed you earlier, we pull off the API, the live content and we inject the ad in a third position. You can see Sun Bum here, they go to the search results page and the product detail page and then call to action. 

So performance ads increased sales quite a bit. The product purchased on branding ads was 9% and 14% in performance, and that's about a 55% more people purchased on performance ads versus branding. Understandable. 

So now let's look at the platforms. I think this is gets a little more interesting. When you look at branding ads on TikTok, they're recognized better. You can see the branding on Instagram was 65% branding on TikTok, 85%. There's a significant difference there whereas on the performance fairly similar. 

The strength and trust and emotions on Instagram, the branding was 76%. The branding on TikTok, 84% also meaningful. And emotion also was significantly more on the branding. Whereas in the performance they were pretty similar.

So when we talk about the two different platforms people kind of know where they're going on Instagram, they know why they're going there, you know, what's going on in my hood, what's new? So the advertising part of the entertainment. Whereas on Tik tok it's a surprise, you know, what does TikTok have for me today? They're funny stories, funny videos, unique scenarios. So, branding fits better into the TikTok world. 

So what are some of the key takeaways? 

Attention's not linear. Now, despite its speed, TikTok is an efficient advertising channel. If the measurement is just time on, people would not be there. But when they're finding out if it's driving the behavior that they want, if it's driving the action they want, they're driving sales, brand awareness, recognition, the time becomes less meaningful. 

Branding and performance campaigns play out their specific strengths in the social media cosmos. 

TikTok in particular is a branding channel. It's all about the beauty of the advertising, very entertaining. And both strategies do work on Instagram. 

So we talk about meaningful attention, that's what this whole, short 22 minutes was about. So there's two different kinds. Some attention, is it worthless or is it valuable? 

As I mentioned with my hands, that's worthless. If you are driving more sales, that's valuable. Inconsequential or momentous, again, when you understand what the goal is, the attention driving it or is it just taking up time. Inconsequential or momentous? 

Was it a waste of time or time well spent? Everyone's gonna have to decide that. 

My hope is today, these 22 minutes was time well spent. It was helpful to learn a bit more about what's attention, what's meaningful attention. And I want to thank everybody very much. I hope this was meaningful and valuable. And now we'll go through some questions.