Data & Tech

This company says it can measure how much attention someone is paying to an ad

Adelaide helps marketers “understand what they’re paying too much for and paying too little for,” according to its founder.
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Mickey McDougall

· 5 min read

Despite nearly three decades of digital advertising, the metrics and measurements marketers rely on to gauge success are...well, debatable.

Traditionally, marketers have measured a campaign’s viewability and impressions: Did an audience actually see an ad, and how many people actually saw it? Most ads are deemed “viewable” if at least half of the ad is on-screen for one whole second, per standards set by the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

But what marketers should be measuring is attention, argues Marc Guldimann, founder and CEO of Adelaide, a company that says it can do exactly that: quantify the attention earned by an ad unit.

  • Specifically, Adelaide claims it can gauge the quality of the media bought, aka the inventory itself—be it a display banner or a pop-up video—not the creative displayed within the unit.
  • “We are attempting to inject a quality score into the market so that advertisers can understand what they’re paying too much for and paying too little for,” Guldimann told Marketing Brew. While some media buyers race to find the lowest possible CPM and most relevant audiences, few actually check the quality of the placement.

“If the only thing you do is optimize toward viewable CPM, and you want the cheapest viewable CPM possible, you will get tiny little ads on very big screens and that gets you no attention,” he told us. That’s the bad stuff advertisers want to shift their spend away from, according to Guldimann. Instead, they should be looking for inventory that’s near the center of the screen and big enough to be seen. Also, “Bigger screens do well,” he added.

The company is primarily pitching itself to brands, hoping to sell them on the idea that they might be wasting ad dollars on low-quality inventory. Clients are given a dashboard that breaks down their campaign and provides them with an Attention Unit (AU) metric for their ads.

How it works

Here’s how Adelaide gets its metric: The company uses a JavaScript tag (sort of like a digital cookie, almost) that’s tagged to an advertiser’s digital ads. It effectively follows their ads around the internet, measuring the sites they’re running on, the other ads that are there, and the “geometry” of the page, explained Guldimann.

This data is then paired with attention research (such as lab-tested eyeball tracking) that Adelaide says can predict how much “attention” is earned from an ad. The goal is ultimately to create a uniform attention standard that buyers can bid on across all mediums and use for comparison purposes: How does Facebook in-feed inventory compare to a 10-second pre-roll YouTube spot compare to a 30-second commercial on NBC?

If Adelaide is successful, it hopes to cut into a segment largely controlled by companies like DoubleVerify and Integral Ad Science, which help marketers make sure their advertisements are actually seen (of course, the fact that this is even a concern should speak volumes to the pitfalls of digital advertising).

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To Guldimann, that’s like an auto buyer asking a dealer if a car runs. “We’re like Carfax—here’s the quality of the car,” he said.

A marketing agency director, speaking to Marketing Brew on background, said he could see a use case for Adelaide if his firm wanted a deeper look at its media investments to trim the fat accordingly. “They’re essentially generating a data set that nobody else has bothered to generate,” he said. “For performance marketers who are always chasing performance, conversions, or clicks, this is great because there’s only so much you can do.”


Adelaide raised at least $2 million last spring and is currently looking to raise more. Clients so far include Microsoft, Mars, Slack, Verizon, and AB InBev, Guldimann said, each paying roughly $5,000 to $10,000 a month on a campaign to campaign basis.

  • Paolo Provinciali, VP of media and data at AB InBev US, told Marketing Brew a metric centered on consumer behavior, like attention, is important to him. Otherwise, “We transact toward these fake metrics like impressions that don’t reflect anything,” he said.
  • He wants to optimize his budgets for more “attentive environments,” as well as publishers that avoid clutter, distracting and disjointed inventory, and have larger display banners or screen takeovers.

For display advertising, AB InBev measures success through brand lift surveys. After optimizing for higher-attention environments—large, centrally positioned video inventory over smaller, corner-screen videos—the brand saw “double-digit gains in familiarity and brand worth,” among customers surveyed, according to AB InBev.

+1: The company has also used TVision, a company that literally tracks eyeballs as participants watch television to measure attention.

If anything, Provinciali said Adelaide’s AU metric provides another way for AB InBev to optimize media spend, as it helps the company determine whether it can afford to shift a campaign’s budget to higher-quality inventory and what that premium might be. “It becomes an ROI calculation,” he said.

Still, Adelaide isn’t measuring the quality of the publisher and its content (like, if it’s spouting off #fakenews), just the quality of the specific ad inventory. Adelaide is in the “late stages of integration,” with three of the top five demand-side platforms, Guldimann said, though he declined to name them.

Surely, any other company or DSP responsible for tons of ad spend has done some of the work Adelaide is pitching to quantify the quality of the media that marketers are buying, right? Right?

Guldimann quipped: “Have you been to websites recently?” Fair enough.

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