Advertising Signal

Attention: The New Currency of Value for Ad Deals

Sovrn Advertising Team // April 25, 2023

Online advertising faced a challenging year in 2022, and 2023 is shaping up to be just as difficult. Ad budgets have been slashed across the board, leading to a significant drop-off in year-over-year CPMs in 2022. Forecasts indicate that ad spend is expected to fall even further in the year ahead. 

Faced with these challenging conditions, publishers need a new approach to optimizing their ad programs. In 2023, one of the keys to success for publishers is to think like an ad buyer. They’re under tremendous pressure to meet their KPIs, do more with less, AND deliver the best possible ROI, so every ad dollar has to work harder. They are looking for publishers that deliver content that captures attention, and those that do should be rewarded with a larger share of ad spend. The key to this is enabling publishers a way to ensure buyers can target based on attention.

Simply put, advertisers need consumers to engage with their ads — which means they must be confident their ads will actually be seen.

The importance of attention deals

Advertisers know that an engaged audience is more valuable than one not paying attention. Engaged users are more likely to view an ad, click on it, and eventually make a purchase. Buyers are willing to pay higher rates to reach these audience segments, because they represent a more efficient use of ad spend. 

That’s why smart ad buyers have begun to seek out attention deals — high quality, highly-engaged ad inventory that’s been segmented and packaged in unique Deal IDs. These attention deals are available through a DSP’s deal library, and some buyers even work with their partners to create custom attention deals targeting specific audience segments. 

As a publisher, you’re in a great position to help advertisers capitalize on audience attention — and earn more ad revenue in the process. It starts with creating high quality content that resonates with your readers and keeps them coming back for more. But you also need a tool that can help you quantify user engagement, package up high value audience segments, and broadcast them through attention deals. 

Capture audience attention with Sovrn Signal

Every time a user visits your site, they emit “signals of intent” — things like clicks, swipes, scrolls, and mouse movements. Every interaction tells you something about where the reader’s attention is focused and their level of engagement. 

This idea is the foundation of Sovrn’s engaged time attention metric, which combines viewability with more than 50 distinct on-page reader actions. As a result, engaged time goes beyond basic viewability to help you truly understand the attention visitors are paying to your content. It measures not only when an ad is in view, but also when a person is actively engaged with the content. This falls under “proxies derived from engagement,” one of the IAB’s main methods of measuring attention

This ability to analyze attention and forecast performance is the foundation of our data product, Sovrn Signal. With Signal, publishers can:

  • Understand the metrics buyers use to value ad inventory
  • Benchmark your ad performance against the market and other sites like yours
  • Identify, segment, and broadcast your most engaged audience segments
  • Deliver higher value inventory to buyers through attention deals

Across the entire programmatic ad stack, Signal leverages attention metrics to pinpoint the most engaged — and most valuable — ad inventory. That same data tells buyers which ad units are most valuable and which factors contribute to higher ad engagement.

At Sovrn, we believe attention is a common ground where advertisers and publishers alike can solve some of their top challenges — from declining ad revenue and budget cuts to addressability and cookie deprecation. And while the “attention economy” has been a focal point of countless articles, webinars, and industry events over the past year, including Cannes Lion 2022, advertisers and publishers are still struggling with a way to quantify and scale attention deals. To help solve this dilemma, Sovrn is an active part of the IAB’s working group to define attention and is partnering with an attention measurement organization, Adelaide, in a groundbreaking initiative to bring buyers and sellers together in a curated high-attention marketplace.

Quantifying the value of engagement

Our interest in attention goes far beyond the theoretical. Signal offers a simple, scalable way to measure user attention, package high-value ad inventory, and broadcast engagement signals to ad buyers. To deliver these audiences to buyers, we have established 20+ high attention Deal IDs on the Sovrn Exchange.

In order to qualify for these attention deals, inventory must meet stringent quality thresholds, including staying in view of engaged users for at least five seconds. Buyers are willing to pay more for these deals because of their high-engagement impressions — and our data shows they deliver a significant uptick in performance as well.

Get started today!

Change is coming to the ad ecosystem, which means both buyers and publishers will need to adjust. But change often brings opportunity for those who are prepared to embrace it. If publishers have the right tools to capture attention metrics and broadcast engagement signals to advertisers, everyone stands to gain.

Sovrn Signal harnesses the power of attention, delivering more value to ad buyers and increased opportunities for publishers to optimize revenue from highly engaged audience segments. To see Signal in action, just email us at to request a demo. 

If you’re an ad buyer looking for new ways to identify and purchase high attention inventory, we can help

Want to learn more?

Share this article