News & Opinion

Quality publisher content is the primary driver of online advertising attention

New research from the IAB reveals that quality content sites, including news brands such as, and, generate nearly three times more attention than task sites, such as and

The study, conducted by Lumen eye-tracking and Ipsos MORI, finds that quality content sites also out-performed other content sites, such as and in delivering advertising attention. The findings are consistent with evidence from previous studies conducted by Newsworks, AOP and independent research companies: context matters for online advertising performance and the premium publisher environment offers significant value for money to advertisers due to the high engagement of readers.

Citing Newsworks’ previous study with Lumen that shows a strong relationship between attention and sales, the IAB have published The Rules of Attention: Five key rules for boosting ad attention online.

  1. Quality matters: Being in a premium content environment (aka, a quality news brand or magazine site) is the single biggest driver of ad attention, generating three times more attention for advertising than task sites such as Rightmove and National Rail.
  2. Think about location: Where an ad appears on the page has a significant impact on the attention it receives – but not always in expected ways. While above the fold ads at the top of a page are more likely to be seen than below the fold ads, the latter generate 29% more attention. This is because people that scroll down a page are likely to be engaged with the content and the surrounding context.
  3. Clean up clutter: While the number of ads on a web page has a negligible impact on the attention ads receive, the number of ads visible on a single screen at any one time is crucial. More than two ads per screen and the attention advertising receives plummets, falling by over half vs one or two ads.
  4. Tap into smart targeting: Quality targeting of relevant ads at people that are in the market boosts attention scores by 107%. Not only are these ads more likely to be noticed and for longer, but they are six times more likely to be remembered.
  5. Be creatively fit for purpose: Mobile ads that have been optimised for the format receive 89% more attention than those that haven’t and are 36% more likely to be recalled when prompted. Considering the amount of investment currently going into mobile, it’s definitely worth optimising for the platform. 

The IAB report follows hot on the heels of Lumen’s first published research on the impact of mobile ads compared with desktop. In How much better is mobile than desktop? Lumen reveals 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. As a result, Lumen suggest 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.

This backs up neuroscience research for the Newsworks/AOP study Context Matters, which showed that lots of visual attention but low time spent on individual ads when scrolling quickly through social media meant that ads were not being processed into long-term memory. 

Having compared MPU formats on both mobile and desktop, Lumen suggest that buying big bold formats, and filling them with big bold creative, is probably the best way to deliver against the promise of mobile. 

For further information on the value of a quality environment, read the results of GroupM’s analysis of online campaigns.

Judy Harman 18/07/19

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