What: We spoke to Seraj Bharwani, Chief Strategy Officer at AcuityAds, about the results of the consumer attention study conducted by AcuityAds and Portada, titled “Consumer Attention: the New Currency”.
Why it matters: Video is one of the leading advertising formats, to the extent that 99% of marketers use it as part of their marketing initiatives. However, video exposure doesn’t guarantee attention. In this exclusive interview, Bharwani talks about how to improve attention rates and thus achieve increased performance and effectiveness.

We are living in an era in which it seems everyone has a fast-forward button. Our attention is more fragmented than ever, and everywhere we look there is an ad looking for us to engage. Video is one of the main formats brand marketers use to seek the consumer’s attention online, but how can they make sure viewers are paying attention? According to a survey conducted by AcuityAds and Portada, 99% of marketers use videos as part of their digital marketing strategy, but only 12% of participants said their videos get the consumers’ attention.

The survey was answered by 160 Latin American brand marketers, as well as media buyers & planners from different agencies, in July-August 2018. The main takeaways of the survey were:

  • Shorter videos may increase attention, but they don’t necessarily increase campaign performance.
  • Viewability does not guarantee attention.
  • Looking for both attention and engagement at the same time does not work.
  • Media execution should be a priority.

We conducted an interview with Seraj Bharwani, Chief Strategy Officer at AcuityAds, in order to know more about the difficulties of getting the consumer’s full attention through video and the best ways to improve attention rates.

Portada: How has the video format evolved in the past 5 years?

Seraj Bharwani: Pre-roll and mid-roll video ads (with 15 and 30 seconds in duration) were widely available digital ad formats until 2013. Most advertisers found it convenient to repurpose their existing :30 TV spots into pre-roll creative for digital execution. With the emergence of broad-reach video and social platforms like YouTube and Facebook, and cross-device content syndication especially mobile, it became progressively clear that :30 was too limiting for the diversity of use cases on devices and screens for on-the-go, multi-tasking, and concurrent-viewing audiences.

Over the past 5 years we have seen the emergence of promoted video in video galleries (user-selected), skip-stream (option to skip), choice-roll (option to choose one of several ad choices), out-stream (auto-play in-article), native, in-feed (social) and other formats. These formats deliver on a variety of different advertiser objectives.


Portada: What are your predictions for the leading elements and formats in 2019?

S.B.: After years of delivering repetitive ad interruptions, both publishers and advertisers are recognizing that viewer irritation, if not curtailed, will eventually destroy ad-supported media in favor of ad-free programming.

In 2019, we will experience a resurgence of user-controlled video advertising that gives viewers the choice to select an ad (user-initiated viewing) and/or skip the ads that are not relevant. YouTube’s TrueView and AcuityAds’ SkipStream® and selected outstream/native video ad formats are good examples of user-friendly ad experiences that give users the option to skip or scroll. AcuityAds’ tracking data shows that viewers who opt-in to view an ad generally watch it through to completion.


Publishers and advertisers are recognizing that viewer irritation, if not curtailed, will eventually destroy ad-supported media.


Portada: Per the survey results, what’s the difference between attention and engagement? Once you improve attention, what’s the best way to start looking for engagement?

S.B.: Attention and engagement are two distinct consumer behaviors. Attention is defined as time spent watching a video ad and is usually measured by tracking percent of viewers watching the ad through to completion. On the other hand, engagement is a measure of specific consumer actions (in-stream or post-view) including clicks, likes, shares, comments, rewinds, and related behaviors. Optimizing for attention and engagement at the same time is a zero-sum game— if you optimize for Attention, it will degrade Engagement and vice versa.

Multiple studies including our own research in partnership with Nielsen and Millward Brown have shown a high correlation between attention and brand equity (i.e. lift in brand awareness, favorability, and consideration). By contrast, high engagement usually translates into greater organic reach through consumer conversation and sharing, and more transactions if the video ads (or the video player) are overlaid with merchandising and shopping features.


Portada: What’s the essence of a successful video advertising campaign? What should clients or providers do to make more effective videos?

S.B.: A video campaign that enhances brand equity and also delivers on short-term sales/transactions would be considered highly successful. Achieving both objectives is generally difficult and requires a combination of great creative assets, custom-branded video player & user experience, high-quality contextual placement, audience propensity scoring & precision targeting, and advanced decision science to optimize in real-time.


Portada: According to the survey results, half the decision-makers would pay 20% more for a 100% viewing rate. How does AcuityAds guarantee improved viewability and attention rate?

S.B.: A priori consumer propensity to engage with specific content, ads, or brands is a prerequisite to capturing and retaining viewer attention. AcuityAds uses proprietary consumer interest (from social data), intent (from site-search data), and viewing (from in-player data) with its advanced decision science algorithms to establish user propensity to watch before serving an ad.

The company also has the ability to optimize performance by benchmarking for consumer attention against a database of over 500+ million video ads tracked since 2007. The measurement platform brings proprietary True Reach® (capturing both paid and earned viewership) & Share of Attention® (a brands share of voice & attention relative to competition), metrics unique to the advertising industry.

Portada: According to the study, shorter videos may increase attention, but not necessarily effectiveness. What’s your interpretation of this?

S.B.: Both short and long-form video ads have their rightful role depending on the goals and objectives of a given digital advertising program. Using a sample of over 180 video ad campaigns (over the past couple of years), we have demonstrable evidence that 30-second and longer, story-telling ads deliver far greater brand awareness, favorability and purchase intent than shorter format ads, under 15-sec in duration.

Having said that, if a brand is well-established in a market with substantial equity (85%+ awareness), it can use shorter format ads to keep the brand top-of-mind and achieve high brand recall.


 Video ads are like a Swiss-Army knife that can be used to address multiple brand objectives.


Portada: Can you provide an example of a successful campaign that you’ve worked on?

S.B.: Wrigley’s Extra gum (Sarah & Juan) campaign that was launched a few years ago using a 2-minute video ad (with subsequent short format ad releases) is a great example of a strategic and well-executed campaign that enhanced brand equity for the Extra brand and also delivered sustained lift in sales and market share for the brand in a hotly contested chewing gum/candy industry in the US.


Portada: What are the basic mistakes to avoid?

S.B.: Video ads are like a Swiss-Army knife that can be used to address multiple brand objectives. Advertisers therefore have the tendency to pack a bunch of objectives/KPIs concurrently into a single campaign which is a big mistake. Having a clear focus on the most critical KPI at a time is essential to achieving success with digital video advertising.

To download the full report in Spanish, please click here.

The Portada Council System got together at Portada Miami on April 19 for the official launch of this exciting new venture, which includes over 70 decision makers from all over the Americas.

Meeting of the Brand Star Committee

Portada’s Council System members are more than 70 senior brand marketing, agency and media executives from all over the Americas. Their input drives Portada’s content and networking platform. Portada Miami on April 18 and 19 in the brand new Hotel EAST was the stellar setting for the official launch of the five different units of the Council System: Americas Board, Brand Star Committee, Agency Star Committee, Sports Marketing Board, and Travel Marketing Board. Check out the FAQ about the Council System.

“It is a great privilege to be a part of the great list of marketing brains and world-class leaders that is the Portada Council of the Americas: a unique place to exchange knowledge, discuss common challenges and share tricks as we define our competitive skills in this fully connected world,” remarked Juan Saldívar, founder & CEO at SWS and member of the Americas Board, in a press release.

AcuityAds’ Seraj Bharwani

Representatives of founding partners of the Council System AcuityAds, Geoscape, and People@ joined president of Portada Marcos Baer in the official launch of this new initiative, which gathers marketing, media & advertising professionals from different sectors and brings them together with their peers, allowing them to discuss key relevant issues and come up with creative solutions in an enclosed, private setting.

“Portada’s new approach featuring the Council System is an impressive new method for ensuring all the key issues are addressed by its conferences and delegates across industry groups,” commented César Melgoza, founder & CEO of Geoscape.

Each of the five units of Portada’s Council System had their first in-person meeting in the midst of Portada Miami, and they will gather again twice this year.

Portada’s Marcos Baer and People@’s Vanessa Angulo

“The Portada Council System is a unique forum for exchanging insights on the US Hispanic audience and advancing the state of consumer attention in partnership with the leading brand advertisers in the country,“ added Seraj Bharwani, Chief Strategy Officer at AcuityAds, who presented the official launch of the Council System at Portada Miami together with Vanessa Angulo, co-founder of People@.

Portada’s Council membership is an exclusive by invitation only experience. Members are selected from an elite group of brand marketing, tech and media thought leaders. To find out more about how Portada’s content and networking platform can help your brand’s marketing objectives, please contact Portada Sales Manager Isabel Ojeda.

What: AcuityAds has agreed to acquire ADman Media for EU $12 Million.
Why it matters: In 2017, ADman Media delivered approximately 55% of its revenue in Europe and 45% in Latin America and the U.S; the acquisition allows AcuityAds to expand its addressable market.

Photo by ADman Media

AcuityAds, the Toronto-based technology firm offering marketing professionals the possibility to connect to audiences through artificial intelligence, has reached an agreement to acquire ADman Media, a leading Video-Supply Side Platform (SSP) in Spain and Latin America.

AcuityAds has agreed to pay EU $12 million in cash and earn-outs in a deal expected to close in the second quarter.

“The ADman Media team has built a leadership position in the core markets that they serve with their video SSP which maximizes revenue for publishers more efficiently versus other video solutions in the market,” stated Tal Hayek, Chief Executive Officer of AcuityAds. “This acquisition will complement our industry-leading AI-powered programmatic offerings for brands and agencies with a unique and differentiated publisher-direct offering and will enable AcuityAds to participate in a larger share of the digital advertising ecosystem to help advertisers and publishers drive greater returns from their digital spend.”

ADman Media is headquartered in Spain and has sales offices in the U.S., France, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico.


Text by Karina Masolova

Throughout all of the amazing presentations at #Portada17, one key question was brought up time and time again: As a marketer, how do we market ourselves? Is “Hispanic”-targeted marketing dying, and if so, how do we justify our jobs?


Margie Bravo, Multicultural Marketing Manager, Nestlé USA.

In the face of shrinking budgets and resources, it is more important than ever to be able to present the hard data and business opportunities behind Hispanic and multicultural marketing to your business partners as well as your own boss and co-workers. But it’s not usually the money itself that’s a problem—social media campaigns, for example, can be successful at any budget—but, instead, education.


The general perception amongst the #Portada17 crowd is that the “Hispanic” segment will only disappear in one of two ways: 1) nuclear war, and 2) when the “general market” becomes the Hispanic market. The idea that we don’t need to pay attention to Hispanics, or that they aren’t important to the growth of our brands, is dangerous to your bottom line.

The general perception amongst the #Portada17 crowd is that the “Hispanic” segment will only disappear in one of two ways: 1) nuclear war, and 2) when the “general market” becomes the Hispanic market.

According to the industry leaders at #Portada17, the same cultural values that resonate with Hispanics in bi- and multicultural marketing efforts also work to feed into and boost general market campaign results. The multicultural consumer is “part of your brand and part of the growth of it,” even for very “traditional American” brands if you do it right, according to Margie Bravo, Multicultural Marketing Manager, Nestlé USA.

Total Marketing

Seraj Bharwani, Chief Strategy Officer at AcuityAds.

Some of the best campaigns are those that resonate with Hispanic audiences without isolating others. The gold standard? Campaigns that welcome African-American, Asian, and other non-Hispanics (including the increasingly diverse “white America”) into the conversation. In a panel, Seraj Bharwani, Chief Strategy Officer at AcuityAds, mentioned one Hispanic-oriented ad that resonated with him because of the strong ties it showed between parents and their adult children who stayed close to home—a unique relationship that also exists in Indian (and, increasingly, Millennial) culture.

Setting aside the debate over total marketing, an integrated approach recognizes the rapidly shifting demographics of the U.S. Half of Millennials don’t fit in neatly to the traditional conception of the “general market”—that is, non-Hispanics. But as our panelists stressed, in order for total marketing to work, it must be done right.

Education is Key

Although Comcast is incredibly supporting of multicultural marketing efforts, earlier in her career, Marie Casimir Fallon, Director of Media Strategy & Planning at Comcast Cable Corporation, had to face pushback. To help resolve the issue, she helped develop an educational curriculum that broke down the numbers behind her ideas and showed why they worked.

To help resolve the issue, she helped develop an educational curriculum that broke down the numbers behind her ideas and showed why they worked.

Marie Casimir Fallon, Director of Media Strategy & Planning, Comcast Cable Corporation.

One audience member asked during a panel about the “perfect curriculum” to use in teaching others about Hispanic marketing. Although it elicited a few chuckles, the question itself is on-point. In order to gain the support of your company, you need to teach them why what you do is critical. Once you have that, you’re free to “break the rules, and take a chance to make an exciting marketing plan” in the words of Joi Tyrell, the SVP Director of Campbell Ewald/Sociedad.

Today at Comcast, every employee goes through training that teaches them about the demographics of their consumers (including Hispanics), where sales are coming from (both on a demographic and regional level), and where sales can grow. The company’s proprietary software even breaks down how many Hispanics, African Americans, Asians, and other groups the company should have as consumers in any given area and for every given product.

But as Fallon pointed out, you don’t need to have this kind of expensive in-house technology to do a good job—you can work with the kinds of knowledgeable partners and agents you’ve met at #Portada17 who have these tools and can challenge you to do better.

you don’t need expensive in-house technology to do a good job—you can work with the kinds of knowledgeable partners and agents you’ve met at #Portada17 who have these tools and can challenge you to do better.

Joi Tyrell, SVP Director, Campbell Ewald/Sociedad.

Another successful businesswoman pointed to the secret of her success as “turning off the crazy Latina … you can do that at home.” Although it feels like a small tragedy, the fact is that in order to convince a skeptical C-suite of the importance of Hispanic-oriented marketing, we have to speak their language.

Just like a campaign targeting Hispanics is stronger if the messaging is in Spanish (and takes account of the nuances of the language and culture), management responds to numbers. Don’t pitch your plan as “the right thing to do,” advised another speaker. But even the most mono-cultural C-suite will understand the bottom line (and if they don’t, that’s just bad business).

The key is to anchor yourself in hard data and become a teacher.

The key is to anchor yourself in hard data and become a teacher. Essentially, that’s what marketing is all about, isn’t it? Everything you do has to be driven by accurate market, consumer, and sales research. Otherwise, you and your team are walking blind. If you don’t know where you’re going, how can they, or anyone else, follow you?


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