How Can CTV Optimise for Attention?

Tim Cross 22 March, 2023 

One of the strengths of connected TV advertising is its ability to capture viewers’ attention. The fact that ads are full screen and sound-on by default, and that they sit in the middle of premium content, means users can’t just quickly scroll past ads like they might in web or mobile environments.

Of course, the living room environment has its own challenges for attention – namely that viewers might start using a different device once an ad break begins, or leave the room entirely.

Thus, it makes intuitive sense that not all CTV ad formats of channels will be equally effective at capturing attention. And new data released today by Yahoo and Publicis Media shows this to be the case.

Prime positioning

To measure attention across different ad formats, slots, and channels, Yahoo and Publicis drew from a mix of datasets. The study used facial recognition data provided by TVision, combined with automatic content recognition (ACR) data to measure attention across specific ads. It also drew on consumer surveys run by research business Open Mind Strategy.

Some of the findings were fairly intuitive, others less so.

When it comes to dayparts for example, prime time ad slots scored best for attention. But Yahoo and Publicis Media also saw peaks in attention during early and late morning periods – not time slots which are traditionally associated with particularly attentive viewing.

Where an ad falls within an ad pod also has a big impact. But while the first and last ad slots are generally seen as the most desirable, the research found that the first slot benefits most from a boost to attention. Ads which air in the first pod position hold viewers’ attention for one second longer on average than ads which appear later in the pod.

The length of the ad pod itself is also important. Shorter ad pods get more attention and more co-viewing, according to the study, and are also seen more favourably by audiences.

Change the channel

While these findings would apply across different CTV apps and channels, the data also highlighted the importance of choosing the right channel in the first place.

Some apps and channels appear to be better at holding viewers’ attention than others. Specifically “intentional” paid subscription platforms, where there is more intent behind programming choice, scored well for attention. vMVPDs like YouTube TV, Fubo, and Sling, as well as hybrid services like Hulu, HBOMax, and Paramount+ were particularly strong for attention.

Across channels, genre is also an important determinant of attention. Crime dramas had the highest attention percentage at 46 percent, followed by political commentary and coverage at 39 percent, and game show competition at 38 percent. Awards programming had the lowest attention percentage at 14 percent, followed by sci-fi at 16 percent, and action/adventure at 20 percent.

But even genres which score less highly on attention can be valuable where ads are contextually matched to the content. As an example, the study found that food and beverage ads aired during cooking shows drew 77 percent more attention than the average ad.

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About the Author:

Tim Cross is Assistant Editor at VideoWeek.
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