Research shows what high-attention readers mean for ad effectiveness

By Mark Challinor


London, United Kingdom


But, now let’s go a step further, as some recent research has come to my attention (to quote a key word for today: “attention”) 

Research organisation RAM (Research and Analysis of Media) is an international research company that facilitates media to interact with its readers, listeners, and viewers and offers these users the ability to express their opinion and attitudes about their chosen media. 

RAM offers media statistics on how articles, advertisements, and other media communication are consumed and perceived. They work almost exclusively with online surveys and the subsequent analysis of the content in conjunction with content from TV, radio, newsprint, media agencies, and advertisers — and with the interpretation and insights all that generates. 

They have the largest reference database in the world, providing a full understanding of the constantly shifting media landscape. 

RAM research

Recently, RAM have aggregated the results of over 5,000 advertisements from over 800,000 responses (UK and Ireland) across print, digital, and radio, and using a tool called DataTile. And it seems to backup exactly what we heard from Mike Nicholson, regarding both online advertising and print. 

Attention in advertising is an important and evolving area, especially in the world of ad effectiveness. Creating campaigns with high attention is a crucial step in creating ads that really work. 

RAM’s survey data and their new attention metric clearly illustrate the major impact attention has on response. The metric provides additional insights into how individual campaigns score and illustrates the importance of attention in driving engagement and action for advertisers, with purchase intent scoring particularly high.

They were able to identify the correlation between high attention and other effectiveness metrics using DataTile’s Research Intelligence Solution. 

Their methodology consisted of a series of online advertising effectiveness surveys (sent to RAM panelists across multiple media channels). Respondents were asked a series of effectiveness questions based around five things:

  1. Recall: Do people remember seeing the ad? Those who remember seeing the ad and score highly on thoroughness/attention given to the ad.
  2. High attention recall: Those who remember seeing the ad and score highly on thoroughness/attention given to the ad.
  3. Recognition: Familiarity with the brand.
  4. Engagement: Metrics such as creativity, benefit, new information.
  5. Action: Did the ad drive action?

What they found: 

  • 39% of all who recall print ads are high-attention readers.
  • 37% of all who recall digital ads are high-attention readers.

This led them to conclude that “the amount of attention a person gives to an ad has a positive impact on effectiveness metrics” (see charts below).


Specifically, research into the food and drink and the banking and finance sectors showed some interesting conclusions, which I believe have a relevance and impact on media sales, too.

In food and drink, whilst high-attention readers are more engaged with the ads, it is in the action metrics where the biggest increase can be seen: high-attention readers are an impressive 60% more likely to take action than the average reader:

And in banking and finance, once again, whilst high-attention readers are more engaged with the ads, it is in the action metrics again where the biggest increase can be seen. High-attention readers here are 49% more likely to take action than the average reader:

Next may well see RAM looking at the news media industry specifically, but there is no reason to suspect the results will be any different as they all relate to client advertising performance, which can nominally be constant, irrespective of the (premium) environment.


Overall, the RAM analysis showed attention has a direct impact on the effect of ads (on memory, attitudes, and behavioural responses). We the media need to “smell the coffee.” 

New attention metrics will undoubtedly become an indispensable part of successful advertising strategies for many advertising companies and the media teams who sell to them, thus enabling insightful planning for future campaigns. 

Where do we as publishers start with all this?

As Mike Nicholson at Six Sells said: “There are lots of different things that you can test and change and see how it affects how people actually use your site. And then with all of those metrics, you can then start to think, OK, well we now know how people like to read our site.” 

That will provide an understanding of the optimum size and placement for an ad and allow for designing uncluttered pages that encourage attention. 

As attention becomes better understood as a metric, Mike predicts ad quality will improve and new best practices for ads will emerge. Time will tell, but we can sure “attention” is not going away. 

Sales teams should be up to speed. It seems to me that education, as ever, is needed — on both sides of the ad buy/sell. It’s another opportunity for media sales teams to “grasp the nettle” and develop skills sets around attention to be able to communicate learnings to ad clients. 

All part of building what we have spoken about at length in these newsletters regarding providing USPs and unique insights that create an environment for ourselves of trust and knowledge about the industry we love and work in.

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About Mark Challinor

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