Attention economy in digital marketing: Why you should focus more on attention

Damian Chandler

Head of Media Buying

Every day, we are confronted with thousands of advertisements. Only a few of them really stick in our memory. Yet attention is one of the most important criteria for the success of a marketing strategy. We reveal which factors have a central influence here and how they can be used.

When was the last time you saw an ad you could remember for days afterwards?

It has long been known that we encounter a large number of advertisements every day, but we perceive only a fraction of them. A report by the Red Crow Marketing agency confirms this.

If we take a look at how the number of advertisements has increased over the past decades, this is hardly surprising. In the 1970s, a person was presented with an average of between 500 and 1,600 advertisements per day on a limited number of advertising media, Naomi Klein reports in her book No Logo.

Today, 50 years later, that number has risen to between 4,000 and 10,000 ads per day. Added to this is the multitude of media through which advertising is played out today.

It is therefore becoming increasingly difficult for marketers to attract and retain the attention of consumers.

The higher the attention, the greater the marketing effect

In response to this development, the concept of the attention economy was developed. According to this concept, the dwell time of recipients on an ad can be used to measure how effective an ad is. Dwell time refers to the time users spend looking at an ad or campaign. This cannot be measured or controlled directly. However, eyeball tracking can be used to determine a rough guide value.

Initial research results show very strong correlations between dwell time and the actual marketing impact (advertising recall, brand awareness, and identification).

Measuring attention accordingly helps in the planning and selection of advertising placements. Webrepublic has introduced its own metric, the CPMS ("Cost Per Mille Seconds"), which incorporates not only costs and impressions, but also the average visibility (viewability) and insertion time of an ad on the screen. By optimizing the CPMS, a significant shift in ad delivery from horizontal to vertical ads could be observed - which is not surprising given the common scrolling behavior on most devices.

Factors influencing attention

Factors influencing attention

To increase attention on ads, it is essential to figure out what factors maximize dwell time with an ad.

1. Time on Screen

Time on screen is the period of time during which an ad is displayed on a screen and is visible to users. The longer the time on screen, the more likely it is that users have seen the campaign.

Time on screen can be measured on a campaign basis and optimized using appropriate bidding strategies such as CPMS or Attention Bidder.

2. Display size

The more screen space an ad takes up, the more attention it gets.

3. Audiovisuality

An ad with sound attracts more attention. For a certain value of dwell time, an activated sound at the beginning significantly increases the expected brand impact.

4. Content

Content on a website or platform that offers users added value generates more engagement and thus more attention. Moreover, content pages are divided into browser pages, where users browse through the entire content, and searcher pages, where users search for specific information. This clearly shows that more attention can be generated for ads on browser pages.

5. Type of device

Surveys have shown that larger devices such as smart TVs perform significantly better when it comes to generating engagement with a brand. Consumers are in a relaxed state ("lean-back" mode) and are therefore more willing to perceive commercials more consciously and in full length.

6. Advertising overload

The higher the advertising density on a website, the lower the dwell time for a particular ad.


Optimization of dwell time with specially developed algorithm

Based on these findings, Webrepublic has developed a solution to optimize the dwell time on ads. The basis for this is high-quality advertising space that does justice to the respective brand, offers a positive user experience, and reaches the respective target group.

We use the following tools to ensure that these criteria are met:

  • Our own publisher deal management system, which allows us to efficiently bundle premium advertising space on a large scale and place our campaigns on it.
  • Our own ad collision console, with which we can monitor the advertising inventory we buy for ad collisions and exclude domains that are overloaded with advertising.
  • Inclusion and exclusion lists that are automatically updated on the basis of various performance metrics.

In addition, we have developed our own automated bidding strategy (Attention Bidder), which considers that the marginal benefit of additional time on screen decreases. Complementing the CPMS, this is intended to optimize the time on screen. 

All else being equal, larger ads, ads with sound, or ads on larger devices are each weighted more heavily. The highest value is given to those that comprehensively fulfill these criteria.

Example illustration of an optimization and bidding mechanism.

Example illustration of an optimization and bidding mechanism. Source: own illustration


At present, it is more difficult than ever to get attention. Media stimuli are numerous and complex, while advertising pressure is constantly growing, especially in the digital space. 

Marketing strategies will have to keep up and cope with this development in the future. By optimizing important factors such as screen time, choice of creatives, and devices, the dwell time of users on advertisements can be increased, which means attention can be generated more effectively, and greater consumer ad retention can be achieved.


Do you want to increase the awareness of your ads and increase the effectiveness of your campaigns?