Attention as New Currency: How Should Advertising Markets Reward Users for Their Attention?

Consumer attention is a critical asset for advertisers, yet the current digital advertising landscape is plagued by low levels of engagement and wasted resources. To address this issue, this paper explores a new practice of rewarding consumers who pay attention to advertisements, which has emerged as a potential solution. The paper provides an analytical study of two alternative systems and highlight their fundamental differences: a platform-centric system, where the platform has a centralized control over both ad volume and attention rewards, and a customer-centric system, where consumers have decentralized control over ad volume and receive attention rewards in the form of an "attention token." The analysis shows that rewarding consumers for their attention can motivate high levels of engagement under both systems. Attention rewards that increase with advertiser match values can align consumer and platform interests. However, there are fundamental differences in the equilibrium attention rewards between the two systems. The platform-centric system may be exploitative, offering smaller rewards to consumers with higher matching values. In contrast, the customer-centric system offers larger rewards as the attention token value increases. Finally, the customer-centric system can perform more robustly than the platform-centric system in the presence of imperfect attention monitoring technology.
Contact Emails: