Research into attention to advertising is going to drive a rethink in how we view media channels

Attention metrics concern the degree of attention consumers give to different advertising media channels.  This is important if we accept that higher attention is likely to lead to higher cognition and memory retention. The value of attention isn’t universally agreed and the way attention converts to memory is a complex area [1]. If you take the view that advertising is consumed on a subliminal level, then the case for attention is possibly diminished. But if you believe that when information receives less attention, memory encoding decreases [2] then obviously attention is important. Either way, attention metrics are now firmly in the advertising and media planning Zeitgeist [3, 4] and there is no doubt that these metrics are going to be a big feature of media research, strategy and planning into 2023 and beyond. 

So, how do we address the issue of attention by media channel?

Lumen Research [5] have undertaken a study to estimate average dwell time as a proxy for attention to a range of channels.  Lumen’s findings are outlined below:

The formula being used by Lumen is % view x av. eyes-on dwell time x 1000 impressions. But in my view this formula could benefit from consideration of size of screen, distance from screen and clutter.

Let’s develop this further by estimating screen size and viewing distance ratio for each channel.

I have estimated screen sizes in feet so for a example, an average cinema screen is about 65 feet, an average TV screen about 3.5 feet (42″, diagonal) and the average PC or tablet size 1.2 feet (15″ diagonal). Mobile phone sizes are estimated at 3″ across. I have also added a metric for distance. Distances are also in feet with average distances from cinema seat at 50 feet, TV and BVOD at 10 feet, PC or Tablet at 1.25 feet and Mobile devices at 1 foot from the viewer. I have not included OOH as distances and screen sizes vary significantly – think tube cross track 6 sheet vs roadside 48 sheet. I have also excluded radio as size and distance metrics are not relevant. To create the size / distance ratio, size is divided by distance.

Adding clutter metrics to attention metrics

To add clutter metrics, I have used a scale of 1-5 where 1 is low clutter and 5 is high. Cinema, TV, VOD and BVOD advertising messages tend to be delivered sequentially so there is no surrounding clutter from a visual perspective. PC and mobile display advertising is often delivered in parallel and so tends to attract higher clutter. Mobile can have higher clutter and in some cases we see multiple ads, underlays and overlays being observed in the same content feeds – this can be seen in the example below [6], with two ads running simultaneously in a recipe page:


Combining these, we derive the the following size/ distance ratios and derive a clutter-weighted ratio by multiplying the size distance ratio by the clutter weighting metric (Ratio incl Clutter).

Media channel attention metric ratios

The Ratio including the clutter weighting can be graphed as below:

Cinema, given its dominant delivery scores highest, followed by full screen incline VOD, TV and BVOD within the range 1.30 to 0.35. Display PC activity ranges between 0.24 and 0.19. Mobile channels with their very small screen size and high clutter score in the 0.08 to 0.06 range. PC-based VOD scores highly when the screen size and closeness to screen are combined with the low clutter of an inline delivery.

Comments and adjustment suggestions welcome.


  1. Interactions between attention and memory, Marvin M Chun and Nicholas B Turk-Browne, Science Direct 2007
  2. Memory and Attention Long, Kuhl, and Chun in Stevens’ Handbook of Experimental Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience (pp.1-37)
  3. What are attention metrics and why are they crucial for digital advertising? Mateusz Jędrocha, The Drum, August 25, 2022
  4. No Longer a Novelty, Attention Metrics are Now Fully Ingrained in Agencies’ Planning and Measurement, Tim Cross VideoWeek, 21 July, 2022
  5. Lumen Research, “Media Buying”
  6. Bread in four easy steps, BBC Good Food,, retrieved 12 June 2024