It’s about time

One of the big problems facing online publishers is over supply. There are simply far too many online ads out there. In the old days, there were only so many magazines and newspapers, each with a finite amount of inventory to sell. Now, major publishers compete directly against every man and his blog, and supply of available advertising inventory is essentially limitless. The laws of supply and demand would tell us that as supply grows prices fall. And so they have. Through the floor.

This might sound like a good thing for advertisers: digital ads are ten a penny! But such low prices have a high cost. Sure, everything’s cheap, but is any of it any good? The commodification of ad inventory has made it very difficult for buyers to use price to discriminate value. Price discovery is hard when everything costs pretty much nothing.

But here’s where everyone has got it wrong. Inventory does not equal attention. And attention is a rare and finite resource. There may be millions of ads that a consumer could see, but he or she can only look at them one at a time. Engaging with ads eats up their time. Time is the scarce resource that advertising consumes.

When you look at media consumption through the prism of time you realise that there’s no over-supply in the market at all. In fact, there is a positive attention drought at there.  People are brilliant at avoiding advertising: on average, only 18% of viewable ads get looked at at all.

And suddenly, it’s very easy to see a way of distinguishing between good and bad inventory. As you can see from the charts below, the longer an ad is available to be seen, the more likely it is to get noticed at all, and the longer people spend actually looking at the ads. Bigger ads get noticed in a shorter time window than smaller ads – with 970x250 ‘billboards’ massively out performing all other standard formats.

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Sure, there are lots of other factors that lead to ad engagement. Well designed, elegant sites draw more attention to advertising than cluttered sites. Sites that generate concentrated engagement often generate even more attention to the accompanying advertising. Creative is a big deal. But of all the drivers that determine engagement with advertising, viewable time far and away the most important.

The Lumen data suggests that the standard measures of viewability employed by the industry are ludicrous. Ads that have 50% of the pixels viewable for one second (the current MRC benchmark)  are likely to get a tenth of a second of actual viewing, a dwell time that would make even the most ardent proponent of the low involvement processing model of advertising baulk. Advertisers need to get real and start buying inventory that has a chance of being noticed and engaged with. And quality publishers need to push this story themselves. The FT, Economist and Telegraph have all championed a more ‘time based’ approach to ad valuation. Others should follow.

Economics is the study of decisions under conditions of scarcity. The economics of digital advertising is broken because people believe that there is no longer any scarcity: inventory is infinite. But time isn’t – and it’s about time that we took it seriously.

Get in touch with us to test your own, we'd love to hear from you!

Black Friday: is it all it’s cracked up to be?

Black Friday made its way across the pond to the British high street in 2010, bringing with it huge discounts, long queues and even the odd fisticuffs over the last TV. But does this bumper discount day (or days as it has now come to be) have any effect on attention to advertising?

Attention to advertising is often secondary: people primarily read newspapers for the news. Ads are commonly ignored by readers, and dwell times are typically very low. In fact, 25% of exposures in print are ignored altogether, with those seen keeping people interested for a mere 2.2”. Digital ads fair even worse: only 35% are noticed for less than a second on average.

Hang on a minute though – on Black Friday, aren’t people on the hunt for deals? Don’t they want to look at ads to find that bargain plasma TV? Surely, if they were going to look at ads, Black Friday would be the perfect time?

Over the last few years we have collected tons of data on consumers’ behaviour around Black Friday and found just that: the way people look at ads changes on Black Friday. On Black Friday, consumers are on the search for deals, and are actively looking for advertising to help give them information on these offers. This leads to a Black Friday Attention Premium: greater standout and higher engagement with ads.

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So, as an advertiser, how can I make this extra attention work for me? First things first, join in! We have found that ads that mention Black Friday, do even better than those that don’t. Going all out on a Black Friday template, with Black Friday in the headline can lead to a 20% uplift in attention. Debenhams is an excellent example of this, and has been our Black Friday winner for 2 years running!

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Secondly, take advantage of the change in consumer behaviour. Usually, we find less is more: ads that look like a poster work harder at grabbing attention because people don’t have time to look for long. Black Friday is an exception: with consumers willingly searching out adverts for information, creating ads in a catalogue style can help consumers easily compare offers, whilst simultaneously boosting attention to your ad. Argos is a successful example of this, by creating a catalogue ad on Black Friday they increased engagement by almost 80%!

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Every year, Black Friday is becoming a bigger part of the consumer retail calendar. With this comes extra attention to advertising. So why not join the Black Friday fun?

Get in touch with us to test your own, we'd love to hear from you!

Irresponsible Tech

We were at Web Summit in Lisbon this week (please see photo below of the Lumen team with our new best friend, Al Gore).
Lots of driven people disrupting things: Ecommerce, mHealth, prayer & lots of interesting people giving insightful presentations. But despite all the contrarian thinking, there were some fundamental assumptions that went unchallenged. Technology is making things better. Change is good. The way things worked in the past was wrong.

This consensus shouldn’t be that surprising. All these companies hope to make money from shaking things up - Lumen among them. Of course they are going to slag off the old way of doing things. They want to replace the incumbents. Look at the world of advertising, which is undergoing its own technological revolution. Ad tech boosters claim that brands used to 'waste' their ad
budgets reaching a mass audience, but can now target individual customers using programmatic technologies. it sounds like a good argument, but then again, they would say that, wouldn’t they?

Sometimes, though, new technologies give new force to old arguments. Good media buyers have always known that not all ads are equal : Ads that appear in quality environments are much more powerful than ads that pop up willy-nilly. This has been a tough argument to make in the face of programmatic technologies, which assume that it doesn't really matter where an ad appears, just that it appears in front on the right person. It's an argument that has greatly benefited ‘disintermediators’ like Google, and played havoc with the business models of many quality publishers.

But Lumen’s data shows that the good media planners where right all along. Context counts. Two years of eye tracking data in the UK has shown that ads on quality sites - ones that invest in high quality content and elegant UX - are far more noticeable than the same ads appearing on the long tail. News brand sites are a good example: an ad has a 1-in-4 chance of getting noticed there, whereas it's 1-in-5 or more for the rest of the market. Even within news-brands there are differences. It’s often the simplest and most elegant publishers that produce the greatest amount of attention for advertisers. Less is often more. Lumen's technology may be new, but we're proving an age-old truth.

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Which makes you think again about the techno utopianism on display in Lisbon. Change is not good in itself. Much in ad tech is new – and bad. The evangelists of change are usually the beneficiaries of change. When it comes to disruptive thinking, we should follow the money.

Get in touch with us to test your own, we'd love to hear from you!

A currency of Attention

Four years of attention truth has taught us an important truth. Attention is a precious resource across every category, in every medium and for every audience. No matter what you're selling, what stage of the purchase funnel you're at, or who you're selling to, the fact that people CAN see what you are selling does not mean that they WILL see what you are selling.

But we can go further. Having conducted hundreds of studies, in the UK and around the world, we can compare how attention compares across media. After all, the media might change, but people's eyes are the same no matter what they are looking at.

Looking at the world in this way leeds to some pretty interesting conclusions:


% Viewed is % of “viewable” impacts – i.e. those exposed to a page of a newspaper, who go down an aisle, or impressions with 50% in view for >1s Press ads: FP = Full page, HP = Half page Dimensions of Digital ads: DMPU = 300x600, MPU = 300x250, Billboard = 970x250, Leaderboard = 728x90

% Viewed is % of “viewable” impacts – i.e. those exposed to a page of a newspaper, who go down an aisle, or impressions with 50% in view for >1s

Press ads: FP = Full page, HP = Half page

Dimensions of Digital ads: DMPU = 300x600, MPU = 300x250, Billboard = 970x250, Leaderboard = 728x90

Based on 283,357 press exposures and 77,343 digital viewable impressions

It shows that the average print ad is much more likely to get noticed than even the best performing digital ads. You would have had to buy more than 5 DMPUs to get the same chance of being seen than a single full page press ad. You'd have to buy a couple of them just to the same exposure as a shelf-edge barker in a supermarket.

However, it isn't just about how likely ads are to get noticed in the first place. It's also about how long people spend with your communications. Your 5 DMPUs would gain you nearly 3 times the dwell time of a single full page ad, and 8 times the attention you get from your pair or barkers.

Comparing across media like this allows us to explain some of the anomalies we see in the market. Why do marketers continue to 'over invest' in print relative to time spent with the medium (I'm looking at you, Mary Meeker)? Probably because a single exposure in a newspaper is at least 5 times more likely to get noticed than even the best performing digital ad. No one raise an eyebrow if you invest heavily in point of sale materials, but people are beginning to kick up a fuss if you pour money into digital advertising. And rightly so: people are likely to see your POS, whereas there's a big chance they won't notice your digital advertising. 

Lumen's attention data offers the perfect way to compare across media - and link that attention to sales. It's a consistent currency - that can make you money.


Mood Matters : Are you in a find or discover mood?

Are you in a Find or Discover mood?

People do lots of different things on the web: from checking the weather, to reading the latest news story, or finding the next train home. Its diverse use is an opportunity for people to see hundreds of adverts a day, but just because ads can be seen doesn't mean people are in the mood to see them.
When people are in the “right” mood, they can become more open to advertising, and in turn, brand messages. Mood matters, but how do we know what the "right" mood is? 
Using natural browsing data from our panel of 500 households, we have found people are often in 1 of 2 moods when surfing the web : Find or Discover.
Sometimes, people are trying to find a specific piece of information quickly: what’s the weather going to be like this afternoon? Is my train home going to be delayed? What's the synonym for "find"?
In this mood, there if often a sense of necessity (to find the answer) and urgency (quickly!) This means most attention goes to the task in hand : when trying to find a train time on, attention goes to the train time search area, rather than spreading across the entire page. 

People are frequently open to discovering information by exploring a site : browsing the for interesting articles or for a new recipe to try. When reading an article on, people are on the hunt for other things to read with attention spreading across all parts of the page, and, importantly to the advertising.

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Our natural browsing data shoes that sites where people are in discovery mood are much better for advertisers. People are much more likely to notice the ads (18% of viewable ads are noticed, compared to 13% for find sites) and spend longer looking at them (1.0 secs VS 0.8 secs).

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Mood matters: Directing campaigns to sites which encourage discovery can lead to an attention premium for your digital advertising. 

Get in touch with us to test your own, we'd love to hear from you!

Lumen wins top prize at PDRF!

We won the prestigious best paper award at the PDRF awards in Madrid. The paper was awarded for the demonstration of the power of quality media.

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Our eye-tracking data show how advertisements on newsbrand websites have the highest chance of getting seen and achieve an overall better ad performance than on any other website. 

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Get in touch with us to test ads of your own, we'd love to hear from you!

Lumen In the Press:
IPA'S Effectiveness Event : Measuring the unmeasurable

We recently attended IPA's effectiveness event : 'Measuring the unmeasurable' which hosted insightful speakers that emphasised the importance of measuring the success and effectiveness of advertising and attention.

Our very Own Mike Follett gave an eye-opening talk about our findings as a world-first attention technology company that specialises in eye tracking for both print and digital advertising; highlighting the real value eye-tracking and attention-tracking insights have in assesing the effectiveness of advertising.



Our data from our eye tracking panel proves how brilliant people are at ignoring advertising and how limited attention is; Whereby only 1 out of 5 of digital advertisements get looked at and only 16% of those are viewed for over a second.

Our insights prove that attention plays the most important role in achieving online conversions and offline sales due to the fact that people don’t care as much for brands as we would assume. Explaining that our focus should be towards making the advertising memorable, as the advertisements that get looked at for the longest lead to the highest conversions. An ad’s success shouldn’t be measured by the last click, but by the most attention.


We believe that the data that can be put into our models is more granular than ever before and can very much measure the unmeasurable.


Get in touch with us to test ads of your own, we'd love to hear from you!

Airbnb brings it home!

This week we tested the Airbnb and Hilton MPU ads below : 

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Despite the fact that both ads matched expected MPU viewability norms; Airbnb's ad was twice as engaging as Hilton's with a norm beating of 0.8 seconds! 

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Both ads showcased a similar logical view order where attention was mainly drawn towards the headline and imagery, which helped ensure the purpose of the ad was met. Airbnb's use of people in their imagery kept viewers interested for twice as long - Making Airbnb our winner! 

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People build interest : Featuring people in imagery helps grip and sustain viewers attention for a longer period of time.

People build interest : Featuring people in imagery helps grip and sustain viewers attention for a longer period of time.

Get in touch with us to test ads of your own, we'd love to hear from you!

Addison Lee laps Uber!

This week we put Addison Lee and Uber to the race and tested their MPU ads :


Addison Lee’s ad performed exceptionally well having people looking at it for over twice as long than expected (1.7s to 0.7s) making it over three times more engaging than Uber’s!

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Although both ads underperformed in comparison to MPU format viewability % norms : 21% noticed Uber's ad compared to Addison Lee's 27%. Most of the attention was drawn towards the headline in Addison Lee's ad which ensured key messages of the ad were taken home by viewers. - Making it our winner!

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Get in touch with us to test ads of your own, we'd love to hear from you!

Apple Takes A Bigger Bite of Attention

This week Apple launched their new iPhone X, but how well does its advertising perform against Samsung’s Galaxy S8?

iPhone X Eye tracking

Both ads performed well, beating format norms for % viewed and the iPhone showing higher than average dwell time (s). Samsung’s ad was better at grabbing attention compared to norm, but Apple kept people engaged for 1s longer than expected, compared to Samsung ad that performed at norm level for engagement.

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iPhone X Eye tracking results

Apple has showcased how powerful simple advertising can be: a combination of product name, short headline and product image has boosted dwell time. High contrast colour effectively draws the eye to the main focus, the new iPhone X: over half of people notice it for 1.1”. In contrast, Samsung’s relatively cluttered ad has led to less engagement –the product is only glanced at for 0.2”, whilst much of the text goes unread.

 Apple highlight how less can be more: keeping it simple with a clear, short headline and product image can really boost attention to advertising.

Get in touch with us to test ads of your own, we'd love to hear from you!