As advertising grapples with the challenge of capturing and holding viewers’ attention, Lumen Research has emerged as an industry leader, providing innovative solutions to help brands develop effective creative and plan media more efficiently. Bill Forelli, Lumen’s VP of Sales for North America, explains the components of Lumen Research’s suite of attention measurement, targeting, and activation tools and discusses the impact they can have on clients’ campaign performance.
Adrian Tennant: Coming up in this episode of IN CLEAR FOCUS
Bill Forelli: The target isn’t high attention, the target is selling things, brand awareness. It’s the outcomes that the advertising is trying to generate. Biometric response is critical for understanding how to optimize media to serve the outcomes.
Adrian Tennant: You are listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, fresh perspectives on the business of advertising produced weekly by Bigeye: a strategy-led, full-service creative agency growing brands for clients globally. Hello, I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, Chief Strategy Officer. Thank you for joining us. One of the most famous quotes from advertising legend Bill Bernbach is: “If your advertising goes unnoticed, everything else is academic.” In today’s fragmented media landscape, the quality and amount of attention consumers pay to advertising varies significantly across different channels, platforms, and contexts. Studies showing how much or how little attention people pay to ads reveal that some channels are better than others in capturing and holding viewers’ attention. Failure to capture attention means that a brand’s advertising goes unnoticed In Ehrenberg-Bass terms, unseen advertising won’t contribute to building mental availability for the brand. Although lab-based eye-tracking technology has been available for several decades, recent innovations in the field, including the miniaturization of devices, advances in phone cameras, and machine learning algorithms, have made it possible to track people’s eye movements on personal devices like smartphones and tablets in their natural environments, rather than in artificial laboratory settings. This has enabled researchers to collect precise measurements and analyze attention across various media platforms at scale. A leader in attention and eye-tracking for over 10 years, Lumen Research serves the industry with solutions designed to help advertisers use attention to develop effective creative, and plan media more efficiently. To discuss Lumen Research’s suite of attention measurement, targeting, and activation tools, we’re joined today by Bill Forelli, the company’s VP of Sales. With career experience spanning sales, marketing, and content creation, Bill has been instrumental in launching Lumen’s attention measurement products in the North American market. Before joining Lumen, Bill led global sales for in-game ad campaigns with Frameplay and served as global marketing manager at Newegg. Bill’s also a Twitch streamer and YouTube content creator in his own right. To discuss his multifaceted interests and how they intersect with attention measurement, Bill is joining us today from The City of Orange, California. Bill, welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS
Bill Forelli: Thank you very, very much. That was a very professional intro. The imposter syndrome is real on that one, so I really appreciate you having me on, Adrian, and happy to be here.
Adrian Tennant: Bill, could you tell us a bit about Lumen Research’s history?
Bill Forelli: Sure. So Lumen Research is a little bit over 10 years old. It was started by Mike Follett, who’s still our CEO, and Mike really started his career on the planning side in Media. And he’s a brilliant guy. If anyone listening has had the pleasure of meeting Mike, you know he’s as brilliant as he is kind, and he’s a lot of both of those things. But his brilliance really led him to the realization that within the media planning process, there was no real data that led to his job being easier and the outcomes being more accurate and better. So what he did is shift his focus from the actual media planning to finding new ways of acquiring data to help in the planning process. That led him directly to attention. So he started the company with the idea that he wanted to learn more about human interaction with media itself. What are the biometric responses? What are the cognitive responses to the media, as the industry was planning, you know, where that media went. And it started with eye-tracking and looking at what the biometric responses were from an eye-tracking perspective. From there, the company has evolved to add technologies that help us use the research that has been gathered over the last 10 years to expand that and duplicate that over billions and billions of impressions using things like the big buzzword of the day now, aside from attention, which is AI and machine learning. So we’re leveraging these new technologies to harness a lot of the data and the biometric stuff that Lumen and Mike have captured over the last 10 years.
Adrian Tennant: What does your role at Lumen Research entail?
Bill Forelli: So I’m the VP of Sales in North America for Lumen. Late last year, Lumen started to expand its footprint within the US on US soil. So, I oversee all of the sales operations in North America, so a rather large region. But it is super fun. I have a lot of experience in marketing and product commercialization, and messaging that help me tell the Lumen story in the US. So it’s a big responsibility, and I take it very seriously, but I have so much fun doing this, and it’s incredibly interesting to me. When I get hooked on something, I like to deep dive into it. And what I’ve found, what a lot of people are finding, is that there’s so much stuff to dig into with attention that it’s a daily, fulfillment to uncover as we go and help spread the word of attention.
Adrian Tennant: Well, Mike is certainly a pioneer, but as you know, over the past couple of years, attention has been the topic of multiple industry events, numerous articles in Adweek and AdAge, and reports published by the Advertising Research Foundation and the Association of National Advertisers among others. Bill, what’s driving the interest in attention within the advertising industry, would you say?
Bill Forelli: I would honestly say that it’s as simple as we simply can now! I really think this highlights what happened in the advertising industry based off of what we were able to measure before, and it comes to one of my favorite laws. I have a favorite law, which is Goodhart’s Law. And that law states when a measure becomes a target or the target, it stops becoming a good measure. And one of my favorite examples of this was from, Colonial India, actually in Delhi. And some of you might know the story, it’s referred to as The Cobra Effect. But what happened was the local Delhi government had a problem with venomous cobra snakes, you know, an explosion in snake populations, biting people and livestock. So they wanted to come up with a way to help lessen the snake population. So similar to what we do here in California, where if you turn in a Coke bottle, you get 5 cents refund. They did the same thing with cobra snakes. So people would bring in dead snakes. They would, you know, bring in the severed head of a snake and then get a monetary reward. So what some industrious people started to do was breed cobra snakes. So there were these big snake breeding grounds where people would breed snakes, cut the heads off, bring it into the government. The government caught wind of this, shut the program down, and those people had all these cobra snakes, and they just let ’em roam free. So the idea was that they wanted to lessen the population of snakes, but the target became the measure. That led to an explosion in Cobra snakes. And that’s what advertising did with viewability – we bred cobras by saying the measure is viewability, and we started to breed impressions. So you get this explosion of websites and publishers trying to deliver as many impressions as possible without considering what that’s doing to the target, which is selling stuff. The explosion of ads out there leads to all the statistics – you know, “People are exposed to 10,000 ads per day and they only see this many of them” – really have done a disservice to what the original target was, which was to figure out if someone was seeing the ad or not. With attention measurement, now that technology has advanced, now that we have a better understanding of what starts to lead to outcomes and where eyes are actually falling on these ads, it’s becoming way more accessible for people to measure and understand. “Did somebody see my ad? Yes or no?” Being able to accurately measure that and then make planning decisions off of that has really led to, I think, the fact that now attention is also the buzzword – along with AI – that kind of works hand in hand. So I think that’s really the cause of the explosion and interest of attention in the last couple of years.
Adrian Tennant: Could you explain how eye-tracking works?
Bill Forelli: There are a couple of different methodologies for eye tracking that we utilize. They’re largely the same in terms of how we take in the data, but we use them in different situations. So the first one is what we call our biometric data set. So we have this opt-in passive participant group that is being eye-tracked on a daily basis to help feed our AI models. So we have access to forward-facing cell phone cameras, webcams, and on desktop and laptop devices. So they open up a portal, sign in to Lumen, and they go about their business online, and they’re being passively tracked in those natural environments. The other method is where we have a recruited panel, where we actually recruit an audience for a specific creative measurement. So those audience members are recruited specifically for geodemographic reasons and then taken through a forced exposure experience where they look at a social media platform website, and we eye-track them and produce heat maps, gaze plots, and feature analysis based off of those one-to-one eye tracking results.
Adrian Tennant: Lumen Research offers a suite of products around attention. Bill, could you give us an overview of each of them?
Bill Forelli: Yeah, so the three product lines that we have are the Attention Review, live measurement, and then SPOTLIGHT. So the Attention Review is a product that looks at a historical analysis of a campaign. So we can go back six to 12 months, and we take in all of the campaign data for that time period for a brand. And we analyze attention over that period of time. Gives a bunch of data in a relatively short amount of time to really benchmark where the brand is at with attention to help make, planning, and buying decisions moving forward. The live measurement piece, which we call LAMP – the Lumen Attention Measurement and Planning Suite – is designed to measure live. So we tag and ingest live impression data on an ongoing campaign, and we can look at optimizations and actually measure the effects of those optimizations live in a campaign. The other side of that, on top of the measurement, is the opportunity actually to activate for attention. So we have high attentive PMPs and custom pre-bid algorithms where we’re actually buying for attention ahead of time. That comes with the live measurement as well. And then, finally, SPOTLIGHT is that kind of second eye-tracking piece where we’re looking at custom creative eye-tracking studies that are conducted in a number of different realms. So we can do cinema, out-of-home, digital out-of-home, print, social media, rich media, you name it. We will do an eye-tracking study on that. So that’s a little bit more of an open-ended component of attention and more of the cognitive side of things to go along with the replicable, digital stuff.
Adrian Tennant: The Association of National Advertisers held an event last year to discuss attention metrics. Data showed that shorter ads tend to attract a greater percentage of high attention compared to longer ones. Live events such as sports and award shows drive more attention than prerecorded or on-demand viewing. And there’s a correlation between the attention paid to programming and attention paid to advertising during live shows. And this might be a surprise to some: brand-building ads typically attract higher attention than performance marketing or direct response formats. Bill, what myths about creative effectiveness or media performance are you seeing being busted by Lumen’s attention measurement?
Bill Forelli: I’m going to try to be … I’m going to try to answer this question as carefully as I can because it’s a very interesting question, but as a research company, we really try to look at measurement as an open-ended question, we can definitely see patterns. We definitely see trends, you know, one of them being the larger the ad size, the more attention it gets – that’s an obvious one. But what’s really interesting that we find on a campaign-per-campaign basis with clients is that we want to understand how attention works for that particular client, and in a lot of cases, for that particular campaign too. I don’t like using brand names because we’re in advertising, but it’s really hard to make this point without using a brand example. But Coke is a good example of a brand that will have vastly different attention criteria than a pharmaceutical company would have. So Coke, for a branded campaign, might only need a couple hundred milliseconds of attention for it to reach their outcomes, whereas a pharmaceutical company might need much longer attention on an ad to get across their message. Attention is different for every campaign, for every brand. Some brands have branded campaigns and performance campaigns running at the same time. We’re going to optimize those completely differently because one’s going to need more time per user. The other one’s going to need more users in order to perform at its maximum. So being able to communicate directly with brand teams and with clients to help walk them through how to use attention and how to look at it specific to them, I think is a really important thing that we try to, really instill in our clients right off the bat.
Adrian Tennant: Some listeners may be curious about the accuracy or efficacy of the data collected from eye-tracking studies. So could you tell us about the study that Lumen commissioned from the global consulting and professional services network PwC?
Bill Forelli: If you want to see a bunch of ad tech people sweat, tell them that you’re having a third-party audit done on your data! When Mike told us all that he was doing, everyone in Lumen was just like, “Oh my gosh, Mike, what are you doing?” And he was so confident, and rightly so, and in hindsight, he should have been. But yeah, we all were like, “What is going on? Hope, hope this goes well.” And it did go really well. One of the things that is really interesting about AI right now and is important to remember with how we deliver data is that there’s no instant verification of its accuracy. So if you go into ChatGPT and type in whatever, “Write me a poem about Lumen in the style of Edgar Allen Poe,” or something, it’s going to deliver something that you can read and go, “Yeah, that’s actually pretty close. That’s pretty good.” Stable Diffusion, you know, “Make me a picture of a blue car.” It’ll do it, and you can look at it and say, “Yeah, that’s pretty accurate.” Or, you know, “That’s not very accurate. It’s got five wheels!” Or whatever. But you have that instant recognition of its accuracy. And that’s something that this PwC audit really did for us is show that the amount of data that we’ve collected and the AI models that we’ve built off of them are incredibly accurate because what they were able to do is say, “Okay, predict attention here.” And then they actually measured the attention there with actual people. So it was really kind of replicating that “type something into ChatGPT” and using the eyeball test to verify it. But it was using the actual attention predictions that we were making, comparing that to what was actually happening.
Adrian Tennant: Let’s take a short break. We’ll be right back after this message.
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Adrian Tennant: Welcome back. I’m talking with Bill Forelli, VP of Sales for Lumen Research, an industry leader in eye-tracking and attention measurement. Could you talk a little about the work Lumen Research has been doing with the marketing and advertising agency network, Dentsu, over the past few years?
Bill Forelli: The work with Dentsu is really fun. They’ve obviously leaned into attention for a number of years. I think Dentsu’s The Attention Economy hit a five-year anniversary this past year. But they’ve obviously leaned heavily into attention, and the best part about what they’ve done is they’re focused on the outcomes. And that’s some of the most exciting things that we’ve done. The exciting studies that we’ve done with them is showing that high attention equates to better outcomes. That’s an obvious thing to say. A famous Orwell quote is, “The first order of an intelligent person is to restate the obvious.” And in the case of advertising, the obvious is an outcome is far, far more likely to happen when an ad has been seen than if it hasn’t been seen. But it really took Lumen and Dentsu joining forces to do studies to prove that with The Attention Economy, to really show that that is the case. That’s really the foundation of what’s made our relationship with Dentsu so strong: our absolute belief that this is about the outcomes. You know, go back to Goodhart’s Law: the target isn’t high attention; the target is selling things, brand awareness. It’s the outcomes that the advertising is trying to generate.
Adrian Tennant: Do you have any favorite client success stories or case studies that illustrate the impact of Lumen’s work?
Bill Forelli: I actually do, I have a really good one that this is the perfect platform for because I don’t think this would work in a case study that we’d publish on the website. When we set up a new campaign with an agency team, we will typically have a cadence of optimization calls with them, whether it’s weekly, biweekly, to go over the dashboard and look at the results and help walk them through how to use attention. And there was this team that we were meeting with, and a portion of their campaign started to lag below benchmarks for attention. And they were trying to figure out how to help improve that, what they could do to help improve their attention on this campaign. So we walked them through and got all the way down to domain-level attention. And we look at actual domains from average time to percent viewed to our APM, which is attentive seconds per thousand impressions, which is an aggregate of both percent viewed, which is, “Did they look at it or not?” and then average time, which is “For how long did they look at it?” So we went through this domain list, and we pointed out a few domains. “See this domain, this is serving a lot of impressions, and it has a very low attention score. See this domain, this one has a, has very good attention, but is not serving as many impressions. So what you could do is let’s shift some of that budget from the lower performing domain to the higher performing domain and shift those impressions over.” So they said, “Okay.” They went back, they made some adjustments to their media plan, and it only took, I think, two days for them to come back, and we jumped on, not an emergency call, but we jumped on another call with them, and they could not believe what was happening. They could see in the dashboard the attention, their overall attention score going up as a result of those optimizations that we made. That was really fun to see that happen, and it was in such a short amount of time that it really highlighted how cool it can be when you look at attention data to make optimizations and actually see those effects happen.
Adrian Tennant: Lumen recently announced a partnership with Nexxen. What are the main goals of this collaboration?
Bill Forelli: The main goal of the partnership with Nexxen is to really do cool stuff! So Nexxen has some awesome technology that we’re able to complement and a lot of companies do too. To be fair, a lot of companies have cool technology that we can also supplement. But what we’re doing with Nexxen is using their AI facial coding that optimizes creative dynamically for brands. From the creative perspective, we come in and then help place that creative in the most attentive locations. It’s similar to what we do with SPOTLIGHT, where SPOTLIGHT deals with what’s in the box, and LAMP deals with where that box lives. The same thing goes with this partnership with Nexxen and the CTV inventory. We’re able to do things that are incredibly efficient for brands. Again, to that eyeballs per dollar, in cognitive response per dollar, you’re optimizing things in a biometric way. That’s the key with Lumen and, Nexxen and a lot of the partnerships we have, even with our partnership with TVision, for example, who’s a huge partner for us with Linear TV and CTV, is that biometric response is critical for understanding how to optimize media to again, serve the outcomes. We want to get to those outcomes as efficiently as possible, and that human interaction is key.
Adrian Tennant: Bill, I mentioned in the introduction that you are a Twitch streamer and YouTube content creator. What I didn’t mention is that you also have a passion for aviation and hold a Private Pilot License. Could you explain how these are linked?
Bill Forelli: They’re incredibly linked In a very funny way. I was living in the Seattle area, and anyone who’s lived in that region knows that in the winter months, you need to have a very good indoor hobby. And I had been out of PC gaming for a long time and decided to build a gaming PC. After I had built this PC, did all the research, CPU, GPU, RAM, all the stuff, put it together, didn’t have anything to play! So I was browsing this online game website and saw this sale price for a flight simulator. It happened to be XPLANE 11, and I hadn’t played a flight simulator since, I think ’95 or ’97, like Flight Sim 95. And I was like, “Wow, I bet flight simulators are really advanced. Now I’ve got to check this out.” So I download the game, and I’m sitting on the ramp with the default plane, Cessna 172, and I couldn’t figure out how to start it. My dad happened to be an ex-Navy jet pilot and private pilot himself. He hadn’t flown in years and years. I only flew with him a couple dozen times, but I knew that General Aviation existed, and I knew that he knew how to fly a 172. So I called him, and I said, “Dad, I’m on the ramp with this 172, and I can’t figure out how to start it.” He couldn’t figure it out. I was like, “I am on the ramp on a video game, in a 172. Can you help me start it?” So my dad on the phone, on the speaker phone, is walking me through based off of a plane he hadn’t flown in 20 years, walking me through how to start a 172 on a computer program, and it started right up. It was that exact moment that the light bulb went off when I thought I could actually learn how to fly a plane using computers and using a flight simulator. So that’s where the passion came from, and the ball started rolling from there where I said, “Hey, if I stream this, if I post these on YouTube, this would be fun content to make.” And I took it all the way through Private Pilot’s License, and still to this day, my real-world flying and simulator flying are completely intertwined where I will brief a flight before I do it on Twitch, go do the flight, film it, post it on YouTube, and then do a flight debrief back on Twitch and continue that process. And it’s been incredibly fulfilling and rewarding.
Adrian Tennant: Well, you are in the unique position of having experience both as a marketer and as a content creator. How do you foresee the intersection of technology and creativity playing out in the advertising industry?
Bill Forelli: I think it’s similar to what it’s done in the content creation industry, and that’s enable people to do things more quickly and easily and be more nimble in the creative process where you don’t have as many gatekeepers or, you know, I mean just from when I started on Twitch and making YouTube videos, the software that you use to just edit the videos and post the stuff has become way easier. And now, with AI you can offload some of the more tedious tasks where you can focus more of your time and energy on the stuff that really matters, which is the content, which is the messaging, which is the emotional side of things. You’re not so held to the actual production stuff that can take a lot of time and money. So for the advertising industry, I think a lot of this technology is going to help make brands and agencies quicker to react to changes within the media landscape – react more to different content that comes out just with cyclical news cycles and, you know, sports teams. So, you know, more attention’s going to be focused on sports and we’re coming into an election year, you know, so that content’s going to change. And being able to react to those things quicker, I think, is going to make the messages become a little bit more honed rather than spending a lot of the time on chasing your tail with some of that more tedious stuff.
Adrian Tennant: What’s the coolest piece of technology that you’ve seen employed at Lumen Research?
Bill Forelli: The coolest thing that I’ve seen at Lumen is really the AI algorithms succeeding in the PwC audit. That really was something that opened my eyes to how to explain better what we were doing in a way that drove a lot of the new marketing materials that we’ve come out with over the last couple of months. I’ve used a lot more AI-generated artwork in our collateral as a maybe not-so-subtle nod to those findings from that PwC audit to really highlight that the validation is important to trust in AI-generated data and content, and that was a really important thing for me to recognize and realize just from a messaging standpoint, that we really do need to see that in order to believe it. You asked the question – rightly so – how do people, really look at the accuracy of these models. It’s way easier to look at the accuracy of a ChatGPT or Stable Diffusion output; it’s not so easy with attention measurement. That audit really helped tell that story.
Adrian Tennant: How do you believe attention measurement and technology will evolve? And what role do you want to see Lumen playing in the future?
Bill Forelli: I think that attention measurement in technology will really become what viewability data is now. Frankly, I think it’s more of the true story of what we’re trying to do in advertising. I would love to think that Lumen’s methodology and our research-focused take on that will be a key part of how that evolves. I really do want measurement, and attention measurement, in particular, to be a measure. I keep going back to Goodhart’s Law, but I love it so much because it highlights a lot of, I think, the follies that we can get into in ad tech measurement and so forth, I want it to be a measure. I want the target to be outcomes, and I want that to be the legacy that Lumen with attention has in the industry. I want us to be the company that really made attention a measure again and made the outcomes the target.
Adrian Tennant: If IN CLEAR FOCUS listeners are interested in learning more about Lumen Research’s suite of attention measurement, targeting, and activation tools, what’s the best way to get in touch with you?
Bill Forelli: The best way to get in touch with me is Bill.Forelli – that’s F O R E L L I @Lumen-Research.com. You could also go to the website, which is lumen-research.com, and hit the Contact Us page.
Adrian Tennant: Bill, thank you very much for being our guest on IN CLEAR FOCUS.
Bill Forelli: Thank you so much. This was an absolute pleasure. Thank you for having me.
Adrian Tennant: Thanks again to my guest this week, Bill Forelli, VP of Sales for Lumen Research. As always, you’ll find a full transcript of our conversation along with links to the resources we discussed on the Bigeye website at bigeyeagency.com – just select “Podcast” from the menu. Thanks for listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, produced by Bigeye. I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Until next week, goodbye.