Cinema in the Media Mix: Benchmarking Attention to Cinema Ads vs All Other Media

An Introduction to Attention

The media buying marketplace seeks common measurement to support fairness in dealings, transparency in valuation, and efficiency in process.

For the multi-billion-dollar premium video advertising business, the common measurement has been predominately based upon one metric: “exposure” to ads, also known as “opportunity to see.”

Despite dramatic changes in content distribution, media platforms, technology, and consumer behavior, the exposure metric that led to the
first Nielsen measurement box in 1950 has persisted. And while so much of the discussion over past years has been about how to better measure exposure, a fundamental question has not been answered: What should we be measuring, considering today’s complex media landscape?

We now know that different media platforms have the potential to
yield varying degrees of advertising effectiveness. But without a consistent, objective way to compare the quality of those ad exposures, the video industry will remain stuck as it relates to marketplace intelligence.

Enter Attention Metrics.

Growing in appeal among marketers, brands, and agencies as a means of leveling the playing field across media — ‘attention’ is quickly developing into the video ad industry’s unifying metric of efficiency and efficacy.

This important revolution in media measurement is due to studies that show a statistically significant predictive value between attention scores and the advertising’s ultimate performance. These higher attention scores can directly correlate to increased sales lift, foot traffic, and app downloads, among other campaign objectives.

Marketers searching for a young, diverse audience are challenged by cord-cutting and ad-skipping. Cinema is the one medium left that is fully opt-in and on- demand where consumers are riveted throughout the entire experience, ads included. When moviegoers arrive at the theater and settle into their seats, one might assume people are snacking on popcorn, checking their phones, or talking to friends. Surprisingly, they’re leaned into the experience and watching the on-screen ads.

Benchmarking Attention to Cinema Ads vs All Other Media

In the first US cinema-based study on attention, movie theater ads were measured against all other video platforms, using eye tracking to reveal exactly where and how long moviegoers were looking at the screen. The study’s major finding showed that cinema ads deliver four to seven times the attention metrics compared to Linear TV, CTV, social, and digital.

The study was conducted by research technology leader Lumen, commissioned by National CineMedia (NCM), the largest cinema advertising network in the US, and carried
out in collaboration with dentsu’s Attention Economy Initiative on outcome metrics.

This breakthrough study used Lumen’s proprietary eye-tracking technology to create an attention score for cinema and provide brands with a better understanding of how much attention cinema ads generate relative to other media, providing an apples- to-apples comparison.

Twelve brands across retail, automotive, apparel, CPG, QSR, telecom, entertainment, and pharma participated in the study.
During the same attention study, respondents participated in a survey measuring brand recall and choice that proved a one-to-one relationship between attention metrics and brand recall and choice.

In other words, there is a clear and statistically significant correlation between attention levels of an ad across media platforms with the ultimate performance of the advertising. Additionally, leveraging attention metrics such as cost-per-seconds viewed into the media planning and buying decision-making process helps advertisers navigate the increasingly complex media landscape and achieve better ROI for their advertising spend.

The Formula for Calculating Attention Score

The attention funnel maps out the ‘attention flow’ from top to bottom; from what consumers can see (duration of the ad unit), to the % of consumers that look at the ad (% viewed) and most importantly, how long do they view the ad.

Study Methodology


Moviegoers were recruited to participate in the study and watch a showing of “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” at a movie theater in Los Angeles. Participants agreed to be filmed during their normal moviegoing experience, they had snacks, access

to their phones, could get up as needed, etc. The audience was exposed to a pre-show ad reel consisting of a mix of brands. During six screenings over two days, infrared cameras recorded respondents and measured whether they were paying attention to the screen. Cameras could detect second-by-second pupil body movements in the dark.


Linear & CTV Norms:

TVision Data (Jan-Dec 2022 n=5,000 Homes)

Digital Norms:

Attention Economy figures based on US Lumen Mobile Passive Panel Data (2021, Impressions = 3,775)