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David Bassett is the head of analytics here at Lumen, and has led our recent Rules of Attention project for the IAB.

He was recently interviewed by the great Richard Marks of Research the Media for the asi podcast, offering his take on the importance of quality over quantity in media buying: 24 minutes of wisdom.

David will be speaking about the project and its implications for publishers and advertisers at the asi conference in Portugal in September. Book your tickets today.

5 rules of attention success, according to the IAB

Attention to online advertising is a numbers game. Every time someone is exposed to an ad there’s a chance that they might look at it – but there’s also a chance that they might ignore it. So, how do you give your ads the best chance of being noticed and remembered?

This was the question that the IAB UK asked us and our friends at IPSOS MORI to investigate. And together, we have developed five rules of attention success to guide your digital marketing. The findings, published this week, offer practical help to advertisers and publishers alike:  

1)      Attention to content drives attention to ads: sites that generate lots of attention to the content also generate lots of attention for the advertising. Buy ads on well read sites rather than sites where visitors are in and out quickly. 

2)      Think about location: ads that are in line with content get more attention than ads that are on the side. And there is ‘gold beneath the fold’: ads that are nestled in the content, rather than at the top of the page, get more attention.

3)      Clean up clutter: you can have lots of ads on a page, but they need to be served one at a time. More than two ads firing at the same time means that there’s a chance that people will look at neither.

4)      Tap into smart targeting: relevant ads can get up to 107% more attention - and are six times more likely to be remembered.

5)      Be creatively fit for purpose: ads that have been optimised for mobile are 89% more likely to be noticed, and 37% more likely to be remembered. 

You can learn the full story here, or read Tim Elkington’s article about the project on WARC – or even listen to our very own David Bassett talk about the findings on the asi podcast.

If you would like us to come in and give you a face to face debrief of these important learnings, get in touch.

How much better is mobile than desktop?


How much attention does mobile advertising really receive? And how does this compare to desktop? Mary Meeker would tell us that you should place your ads on the devices that people use the most, and people use their phones a lot. But what are you getting when you buy a mobile ad?

In the last six months, Lumen has developed some revolutionary technology that can help us understand the difference. Our new webcam eye tracking software allows us to do large-scale eye tracking projects on live websites on mobile phones. You can test and optimise your mobile ads, in context, anywhere in the world, amongst statistically significant samples.

And the learnings you can get are fascinating. It turns out that mobile ads get roughly three and a half times more ‘attention seconds’ than desktop ads.

But they get attention in a very particular way, with major implications for advertisers.

‘Attention seconds’ are a combination of two factors: did anyone see the ad at all, and how long did they look at it for? If 50% of people notice a viewable ad for on average 1 second, then you get 500 seconds of attention for every 1000 viewable impressions that you buy. 30% noticing an ad for 2 seconds will get you 600 seconds from every 1000 viewable impressions and so on. Getting noticed at all is important, but dwell time with the ad is also vital.

Our research suggests that mobile ads are very good at being noticed – 78% get seen in some way, which compares to just 17% for desktop. But they get looked at for slightly less time on average: 1.0 second, rather than 1.5 seconds for desktop.

When you, multiply the percentage who notice the ad by the average time they spend actually looking at the ad to create the ‘attention seconds per 000 impressions’ you see that mobile ads are so much more noticeable that in aggregate, a thousand impressions will get you 7.2 minutes of attention, whereas desktop ads will only get you 2.1 minutes of attention.


Another way of saying the same thing is to look at the ‘attention curves’ of the two media. Yes, mobile ads are much more noticeable, but the decay in the attention curve shows that the vast majority of the ads get less than a second of attention. The decay in the curve for desktop ads is less pronounced, meaning that if people notice the ads at all they stay with them for a bit longer.


Now, averages hide as much as they reveal. Many of the mobile formats that we have picked up in our studies are tiny, whereas some of the desktop formats are huge. Luckily, there are formats that are common to both devices such as MPUs. When you compare like with like, the results give a clear view of the impact of device. 1000 MPUs on desktop is likely to get you 2.0 minutes of attention in total. 1000 MPUs on mobile is likely to get you 8.8 minutes in total, an increase of 4.5 times.


Our research suggests that mobile advertising is great at getting at least some attention. This stands to reason: the ads often fill the screen, and you have to scroll pass them to get to the next bit of content. But it also suggests that many people are scrolling so fast that they are barely looking at the ads at all. They pass in a blur – glanced at, rather than fully consumed.

The implications for advertisers are profound.

Mobile is a great way to get noticed, and the money that is going into the channel is not wasted. A pound or dollar spent on mobile is probably better spent than on desktop.

But you have to get the creative right. Attention budgets on mobile seem to be even shorter than they are for desktop. We often tell our clients that they have to ‘think like a poster’ and design digital ads that can be consumed quickly and efficiently. That seems to be doubly true on mobile.

Or, you have to buy some attention. Some sites, and some formats, are simply better than getting noticed than others. Buying big bold formats, and filling them with big bold creative, is probably the best way to deliver against the promise of mobile.

And- shameless plug - we can help you do both at Lumen.

Join us for a world first: eye tracking for mobile

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There’s still time to get your tickets to this year’s MADfest Picnic, which should be fun. The agenda looks excellent, with people like Holly Tucker, founder of Not on the High Street and Russell Davies, who is now CMO of Bulb, sharing their wisdom.

But, great as they are, no one will be showing any revolutionary technology. Except, of course, Lumen. Because, if you go down to the woods at say, 12 o’clock or so, you’ll see the world mobile webcam eye tracking results, which we have completed with the help of our friends at Inskin.

Doing eye tracking on mobile phones is HARD. The space is small. People wobble their heads and wiggle their hands. Mobile apps are tricky to read. But we’ve done it. And we’re getting some really interesting data from the technology.

Come along on Wednesday to understand if mobile ads get more or less attention than desktop ads, or if there are greater or lesser ‘amplification’ effects from rich media ads on phones or computers.

Or come along to drink our beer and enjoy the sun. The weather forecast looks good.

ICYMI: Lumen helps Mediacom and British Gas win at Campaign Tech Awards

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Congratulations to our friends at Mediacom and British Gas. In case you missed it they won top prize for Most Effective Use of Programmatic Media at the Campaign Tech Awards for the way they applied Lumen’s attention data to recent campaigns.

The award entry summary neatly captures the value proposition:

Everyone knows that neither click rate nor ad engagement correlate to business outcomes, but in the absence of more meaningful metrics many advertisers slip back into optimising to them. Surely there was a better way? We partnered with eye tracking research company Lumen to link impressions with high attention with sales. Using Lumen’s Attention Model analytics, we optimised to placements forecast to have high attention.

The high attention ads were 56% more expensive, however there was a 240% lift in conversions – a premium well worth paying and a meaningful model we can use in the future!


Lumen’s data is now fully integrated into Avocet, the innovation DSP, so anyone can access the insight that won British Gas and Mediacom this coveted award.

Mary Meeker: Time spent ≠ attention

Note to Mary Meeker: time spent with a medium does NOT equal time spent with advertising on that medium

Mary Meeker’s latest exhaustive and exhausting Internet Trends report is out. As ever, it is packed with interesting and important information. As ever, one slide stands out as egregiously simplistic: the time spent with media vs the ad spend on that media.

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This year, the story is one of market sanity: people in the US spend roughly 18% of their media time on desktops and 33% of it on mobile phones, and hey, guess what? Advertisers spend roughly 18% of the budgets on desktop ads, and 33% mobile advertising. This is compared 2010, when time spent/media spend was seriously out of kilter. Looks like someone has been listening to Mary Meeker.

(And let’s be honest, folks, someone HAS been listening to Mary Meeker. Her insights and her report have genuinely moved the market over the last few years, and she has done a brilliant job of highlighting interesting opportunities).

But according to this analysis, print spend still looks overweight, and where is Cinema and OOH? You can bet that, compared to time spent with the media, investment is over egged.

Is the market really so irrational? Why do brands keep on ploughing money into these media even if people aren’t spending lots of time there?

This is because not all ads are created equal. People are very good at avoiding advertising, and ads on some media are simply easier to ignore than ads on other media. People might spend a lot of time on desktops, but advertising on desktops is much easier to ignore than ads on mobile, or TV. People might not read newspapers as much as they used to, but when they do, they notice the ads far more frequently, and spend much more time with them, than they do with digital media.

Over the last 6 years, we at Lumen Research have conducted hundreds of eye tracking projects to understand the reality of attention to advertising across media. For the last 3 years, we’ve been running the world’s first passive eye tracking panel: hundreds of consumers are paid to install a small eye tracking camera onto their home laptop computers which tracks everything they notice – and crucially, everything they ignore – when they go on line.

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When you look at our data in aggregate, you notice an interesting and important fact: just because you can see an ad does not mean that you will see it. Even ‘viewable’ advertising isn’t always ‘viewed’. The ‘attention gap’ between viewable and viewed advertising varies wildly between media. Only 20% of viewable desktop display ads actually get viewed. Mobile ads are far harder to ignore: about 60% of them are actually seen. But Print and OOH ads are far more visible: between 70% and 80% of viewable print and OOH ads actually get noticed. Pre-roll advertising on desktop is unique in that almost everyone who can see it, does see it. Our friends at TVision have some interesting complementary data on this subject when it comes to TV advertising.

Secondly, the eyes-on dwell time with all forms of advertising are much shorter than you might imagine. The average time that people actually spend looking at a desktop display ad is 1.3 seconds; with a mobile ad, it’s about 1.5 seconds; 1.7 for a poster; 2.1 for the average print ad; and a whopping 9 seconds with a pre-roll ad on desktop. Already, you can see that the effective reach and the effective dwell time with ads in different media is radically different.

Thirdly, you can see that the dwell time averages are not based on a normal distribution, but are skewed to one end: most people just glance at most ads, though once in a while an ad will really capture your attention and you’ll spent 3-4 seconds with it. This happens far more frequently with print and posters than it does with digital and mobile.

We can begin to understand that media buyers might not be mad after all. Advertisers ‘over invest’ in print (and out-of-home) because people ‘over invest’ their time in advertising on these media. In fact, it may be that the true learning to be taken from Ms Meeker’s charts is not that the market has reached equilibrium in digital ad spend, but that we are spending too much on digital channels given the relative ‘weakness’ of ads on these media.

If you were to buy 1000 viewable impressions across different media, and then take into account how likely it is that each ad gets noticed at all, and then how long it is likely to be actually looked at, how many minutes of actual attention to advertising would each medium produce? Our analysis suggests that you would get 2.5 minutes of attention from 1000 desktop display ads. You’d get twice that for mobile ads, which are that much harder to ignore. But you would get 10 times that for 1000 print ads. And you would get 50 times that investing in desktop pre-roll.

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Advertisers don’t care if people could see their ads. They care that people did see their ads. Some media are just better than others at converting the potential for attention into actual eyeballs on ads. This is what drives business results, and this is what should be driving investment levels. Perhaps there’s method in this market madness after all?

When in Rome


We were in Rome this week, speaking alongside JCDecaux at the Festival of Media about attention across different types of advertising. The media advertisers use may change all the time, but our eyes stay the same. This means that we can use eye tracking as a common ‘currency of attention’ to evaluate the relative impact of each type of advertising.

Eye tracking across media throws up some interesting insights. Out-of-home advertising is often seen as a salience media – great at getting you reach, but best for short, sharp messages. Looking at the data, this is, in fact, true. But interestingly it’s true for digital display too! In both media, you should assume that you are only likely to get about 2 seconds attention. So, when developing creative, ‘think like a poster’ – even if it’s not a poster!

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Our talk in the Eternal City allowed us to uncover another eternal truth across media.  We recently found interesting priming effects in digital media with our friends at Inskin. If you precede a normal MPU with a big shiny Pageskin from Inskin, then the MPU gets more attention than you would expect. The Pageskin ‘amplifies’ the effect of subsequent ads. You can read more about it here.

Is this effect unique to digital? We set up an interesting little experiment in collaboration with our friends at Heineken and JCDecaux. Using our new live in context pre-testing tool, we were able to create an A/B test of the attention to 6$ posters in Liverpool Street Station. We made one film where there was just one 6$ poster from Heineken; another where it was preceded by an additional 6$ from Heineken; and finally a third where it was preceded by a nice big 48$ poster.

Example stills from our test films, showing station scene with and without 48$ Heineken poster.

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The results of this OOH ‘amplification’ test are largely in line with what we found with Inskin: big ads have an ‘amplification effect’ on subsequent smaller ads. There was a small uplift in attention to the second 6$ even if it was only preceded with another 6$. But the effects were far greater if it was preceded by a big, bold 48$. As with the Inskin study, we saw that the biggest effects weren’t on how many people noticed the subsequent ad, but how long they spent with it.

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This little learning has major implications for advertisers. Just as no man is an island, so too no ad is ever seen entirely in isolation from what has gone before. Understanding the ‘attention stock’ of your campaign, and how attention to one ad influences attention to others, could help you to get bigger bang for your buck.

The conference as a whole was fantastic, with fascinating talks from the likes of The Washington Post, Formula 1 and our friends at Adidas. And it was great fun collaborating on the project with my fellow speaker, Neil Eddleston of JCDecaux and Ron Amram of Heineken, without who’s support we wouldn’t have had much to say! Adform sponsored the Innovation Stage at the Festival of Media, so we’re very grateful to them too. All I can say is: book your tickets for the next event now (which just happens to be in Miami)

Wobblers go to Hollywood

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Consider the humble wobbler – that little piece of cardboard attached to a supermarket shelf by a band of plastic. There it is, wobbling away, trying to attract your attention to a special offer or a price cut. It’s so tiny, is it even worth researching?

But think again. Think of all the wobblers, bobbing up and down supermarket aisles across the country, all the plastic and the cardboard that goes into making them and their bigger brethren. Think of the millions of pounds that are spent on making point-of-sale materials in the UK – in the world! - this year. Think of all the time and effort that goes into commissioning, designing, producing and installing these vital drivers of business. And then you start thinking – why aren’t we researching these things more?

Partly it’s down to time, and partly it’s down to cost. Eye tracking is a brilliant tool to assess and optimise the impact of point of sale materials, but it has, up to now, taken a lot of time and money. But at Lumen, we believe that we have a revolutionary solution to pre-test POS at scale in days not weeks, and at a fraction of the cost of traditional techniques.

Eye tracking shows you what people actually see, not just what they could see. As such, it is a brilliant tool for understanding the reality of attention within busy environments like supermarkets. Yeah, sure, people could see the wobbler, or the shelf barker, or the hanging board. The real question is did people look at it, and did it affect their behaviour? We’ve done many studies to investigate what actually catches the eye in store - and affects the wallet – and helped retailers save millions of pounds optimising their inventory.

However, these projects tend to be pretty resource intensive. To understand the difference between the impact of wobbler A and wobbler B, clients have to design and print up both wobblers, and then install the wobblers in store on different days, and then send people in store wearing eye tracking glasses to see the difference in attention between the two wobblers. It’s enough to give anyone the wibbles.

So, we have developed a new and revolutionary way of working that combines Hollywood-style special effects with our proprietary webcam eye tracking technology. It allows you to test far more options, amongst far more shoppers, far more quickly, for much less money.

What we do is this:

·        Step 1: We make a film of a typical shopping trip from the point of view of a typical shopper.

·        Step 2: We identify key POS locations that we’re interested in, and use Hollywood-style special effects developed by our friends at Mirriad to swap Wobbler Design A for Wobbler Design B (or any other feature, to be honest) within the film. If the type of POS that you’re interested in isn’t in the original film, don’t worry. We can add in totally new POS into the film, no hassle.

·        Step 3: We recruit respondents online, so they can watch films and do the eye tracking on the films on their home computers. We can then give people a post-test questionnaire to assess recall and purchase intent.

Check out the videos below that we have made with our friends at Tesco to see how realistic the doctored films are:

Pretty cool, huh? But who noticed that we had also added in a load of shelf barkers to the second film? Watch the video again, or look closely at the two images below to see the subtle differences and additions to the films. Changing the header board shows that the technology is astonishing. Adding in the barkers shows that the technology is useful.

Original version: without the yellow barkers

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Doctored version: including yellow shelf barkers

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There are many advantages to this approach:

·        No need for printing and installing POS – all we need is the pdfs or mp4s to insert in to the film

·        Less disruption in store, as all we need to do is make one film and then let Mirriad work their magic

·        More flexibility to test more POS options: if you have 10 designs to test, we can make ten films – rather than doing 10 different days of research. Want to see the effect of having lots or little POS? Boom: it’s done in a couple of hours, rather than a couple of months.

·        Greater methodological control: everyone sees the same film, so any differences in attention and recall will be attributable to the changes in the POS, and nothing else

·        Greater scalability: simplicity of webcam eye tracking means that we can conduct tests amongst hundreds of respondents, anywhere in the world, for the same cost as we could do 10 respondents using eye tracking glasses

·        Speed: get results in days, not weeks

·        Normative comparison: by conducting numerous tests on the same ‘base films’ we can begin to build up a normative database to benchmark the results of each individual test

Of course, it’s not quite the same as going into a store and getting people to look at the actual POS using eye tracking glasses. There will always be a role for that kind of research, if you have the time and budget. But if you want actionable insight about POS, quickly and cheaply, then this revolutionary combination of Hollywood-style special effects and webcam eye tracking is for you.

Wobblers: it’s time for your close up.

Lumen point of sale pre-testing tool wins in Brussels

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Another busy week for us as we were pitching some of our latest innovations to the P&G and Partners Corporate Day, organised in collaboration with the European Innovation Council.

We picked up a prize for best pitch: another one to go into the trophy cabinet.

We won for a new approach to pre-testing point of sale materials. Our winning idea combines our accurate webcam eye tracking with Hollywood-style special effects create a scalable and affordable pre testing tool for point of sale materials.

Pre-testing POS is hard. There’s no point showing people designs out of context because the question you want to answer is ‘will people notice these materials while shopping?’

To get over this problem, brands and retailers have in the past adopted two approaches. You could do live tests, printing up various design options and then sending in hundreds of people into store wearing eye tracking glasses to see if they notice or act on design more than another. It’s highly accurate, but pretty expensive and disruptive in store.

Or you could build a 3D virtual store – a bit like a computer game - and insert various POS options into the environment. You can then get people to explore the environment and see if they notice the POS. This is also pretty expensive, and is, at the end of the day, still a computer game.

Our solution is a bit different. We send in a team to make a short film of a shopping trip from the shopper’s point of view. We then edit and manipulate the film with the help of special effects company Mirriad, swapping header boards in and shelf barkers out at will. We then conduct eye tracking tests on these different films at scale and speed using our proprietary webcam eye tracking technology. It’s easier and more scalable than conducting a glasses-base study; more realistic than shopping within a computer game; and quicker and cheaper than both.

Here are a couple of stills from the demo films we showed in Brussels. The first image from the ‘base’ film we made for Tesco.

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The second image comes from the manipulated test film, where we have added in some barkers, and changed the header board. And, okay, we pandered to our European audience!

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Get in touch if you would like to learn more about this revolutionary approach to testing and optimising POS.

Amplifying your attention


Sometimes you can go about your business, blissfully oblivious to ads around you. But notice one ad once, and then you seem to see the campaign everywhere. This ‘priming effect’ is well known in psychology literature, but formed the jumping off point for our friends at Inskin Media.

They designed a fascinating study to understand if you are more likely to notice subsequent ads if you have looked at an initial ad. The research confirmed what the scientists have been telling us: visual priming is a real, and powerful, driver of attention to advertising.

This has major implications for advertisers. It suggests that you should fight hard to get your campaign noticed initially – buying bigger or longer ads in the opening stages of a campaign – because this will have an ‘amplification effect’ on the smaller or shorter ads that you buy later. Front loading the campaign with a ‘big bang’ early multiplies the effect of subsequent ‘drips’. You can read the findings here.

We thought that the project was both fascinating and important. And guess what? So did the judges at Mediatel’s Connected Consumer Awards, the Connies. Inskin put the project up for an award, and this week is was shortlisted for an award. They are up against a bunch of other Lumen clients - for the record, we have no favourites.

So congratulations to Fran, Dom, Aditya and Caitlin at Inskin: fingers crossed!