PMG Digital Made for Humans

How to Capture and Value Attention in the Digital Economy

10 MINUTE READ | July 1, 2020

How to Capture and Value Attention in the Digital Economy

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Vysh Vysh

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Did you know the average person’s attention span is 12 seconds? Yes, yes, we all heard that one back in the iPhone 5 days, mate, I hear you cry.

Well, did you know the average attention span of a Gen Zer is eight seconds? That’s even less than a goldfish — bet you didn’t know that!

But… if we think about it, like really think about it, something just doesn’t feel right about that statement at all, does it? I mean, you’re still here reading this aren’t you?

We’ve all been there; trapped in a Sunday consuming Netflix spiral, lost down a never-ending YouTube video rabbit hole, or even nose stuck in a book that we can’t put down — my personal Netflix single-sitting record is closer to eight hours than eight seconds (pretty proud of that commitment to watch a whole season of Breaking Bad in one go).

Really, all these observations are telling us is that attention is relative to how interested you are in what’s being presented to you. Let’s unpack that a bit more.

A robust methodology for measurement is at the core of understanding what matters in digital content and advertising. Speakers from the IAB and Snapchat drew a distinct line between what they called a ‘quick eye-ball’ and a ‘quality view’. Jon Mew, Managing Director of the IAB UK, put forward a formula of considerations that will help advertisers drive quality views based on Lumen Eye-Tracking Research:

Premium was the word of the day at the Digital Upfronts. Not only premium environments and partners, but premium content lending itself to innovative digital advertising opportunities. Whether it’s methodical vetting of programmatic environments to pushing impactful video inventory, or even working with the growing number of publishers building mobile-first content on Snapchat to deliver best-in-class vertical video placements, setting our ad campaigns up for positive sentiment with consumers needs to be top-of-mind to win out in digital. Luckily, PMG continues to push these boundaries in partnership with our clients.

“Viewability” is digital advertising’s favourite made-up word when it comes to modern-day measurement, and the importance it carries should soon be worthy of a place in the Oxford Dictionary. As everyone has shifted from the first 5-year excitement of scaled advertising at such low cost through the birth and adoption of programmatic advertising, cheap CPMs just don’t cut it anymore. A viewable ad impression is now the absolute base standard for worthwhile digital ad-serving and position on page is critical to this.

What’s  worse than landing on a page and being bombarded by clashing takeovers, skins, videos popping out from corners, glitching in-feed placements and accidentally clicking something when you mean to close it? Ah yeah, it’s when you get to the bottom of the page and see a list of sponsored articles telling you “how you can lose 10 lbs of belly fat with this very simple technique”…

The culture of “promoted clutter” needs to be curbed – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. At a time where news, apps, notifications and communication through images, text and voice are bursting out of our phones, computers, cars and TVs, the digital consumer is craving a focused feed of important information. Applying this to advertising not only means providing useful and streamlined experiences, but also only relevant ads.

Speaking of ad relevance, one of PMG’s central tenets is a meticulous approach to targeting in-keeping with our audience-first philosophy. Targeting might sound like a tired word now, but it’s actually the most important consideration and requires refined balance and finesse in its employment. Let’s take a look at different considerations that make great targeting:

  1. Platform-relevant audience building: We have to move beyond basic demographic or universal audience profiling views. Your behaviour and inclinations on Instagram might completely vary from how you feel and behave on Snapchat. Audience building requires depth of thought beyond age, gender, or household income profiling and an appreciation of device, situation, likely mind-set and, crucially, platform-based nuance to tend towards the desired effect.

  2. Cross-platform audience duplication: Assessing the impact we can have on a single user, whom we access through a multitude of different digital audience marketplaces we utilise, presents a difficulty that’s as yet unsolved in advertising. How do we know if we have targeted them elsewhere already? What if they already bought the thing we are advertising? Can we feed that into one of our tactics? What if they have two phones? That’s a tough one.

But the user knows that, too. We don’t live in a perfect world so let’s just embrace it and start simple. Build creative fit for the platform and channel so our ads land naturally, and be aware of different mindsets and stages of the consumer journey so the same user can be advertised to in different digital situations. Go from platform-agnostic to tactically deliberate in your creative and media planning.

  1. Sequential messaging: Using digital action and behavioural signals to provide tailored messaging at different touchpoints. This can often mean looking at a consumer as a lifelong opportunity for multiple purchases, therefore, knowing when to push and — this is the hard one to swallow — when to actively exclude an audience from conversion driving campaign cycles is essential.

  2. Frequency capping: There is some belief in the industry that suggests keeping your audiences broad and hammering them with messaging if they’ve shown the slightest interest in your band or product pays dividends in conversions and ROI. So for example, if you hit 1,000 people, and 20 converted, that’s better than hitting 500 people and only ten converted. There’s no exact science to disprove this theory, but here is a simple graph that helps understand how to approach a balance:

So looking at this, there’s a system at hand for how to apply a brand loyalty factor to your tactics. BMW, for example, are best at preserving as much positive brand affinity and sentiment while going light on potentially annoying high frequency DR tactics because the pay-off is so high from a single conversion. You’re better off not alienating any of your potential consumers. 

Looking at ASOS, on the other hand, you can see there isn’t a huge amount of brand loyalty that is sacrificed when heavily advertising out-of-season clearance items in a 2-week window as the relatively low-cost conversion likelihood is a lot higher, and the customer will care more about the price point being advertised.

Go from platform-agnostic to tactically deliberate in your creative and media planning.

This question is important primarily from a brand strategy point of view. A bigger variety of scaled cultural moments (outside of Christmas) are increasingly dominating today’s archetypal branding calendar. Take Pride Month for example, it was probably the biggest emerging moment for mass brand participation. Everyone was making custom products, throwing parties, and rebranding their logo in rainbow colours.

None of this is a bad thing. Pride awareness and promotion is amazing and the more the better. However, the meaning behind the actions is key. Being perceived as shallow in your advertising can be an easy trap to fall into like this recent Budweiser example. In theory, it’s great that Bud wants to sponsor Pride and push messaging with custom cups, but the backlash probably has their marketing team scratching their head wondering whether it was the best decision.

The key here is to empower scaled cultural moments, but localise and anchor your initiatives in what’s clearly important to your brand and your audience. “Sclocalise”, if you will. One recent example of this comes to mind. Beats by Dre UK recently released a short video documenting the road to recovery of young footballer Callum Hudson-Odoi from injury. Beats has a long-standing, deep relationship with Chelsea Football Club and is a recognised brand player in football culture throughout the UK.

Marrying up all these factors resulted in finding the sweet-spot through a rich piece of branded content with insight, artistic flair, and an emotional connection to the viewer, who’s probably a football fan. The sentiment from the comments and engagements was overwhelmingly positive and focused on the right thing, Callum Hudson-Odoi and his road to recovery — the story was simply elevated by Beats by Dre.

Okay, so I think I’ve got the brand idea and it’s going to land well. How do I measure the effectiveness of the campaign and tell this story?

Asking yourself what’s the right kind of attention is the million-dollar question. We have to accept that in the digital marketing industry, to some degree, we are often suspended within the grey area between hard metrics, like a click or conversion, and trying to grasp feelings like positive recognition and the emotional response of a mass audience on the other side of a screen. Whilst for the latter there may never be an exact science, we can employ platform-based forethought and psychology to tend towards best results.

Let’s take the YouTube skippable format for example. What do we know:

  • We have five seconds before someone can skip this

  • They probably will skip it because they’ve adopted naturalised behaviour to do so (even babies quickly learn to frantically and impatiently prod the “Skip Ad” button — nothing shows the might of an inherently digital lifestyle more so than Google instilling a natural cue point in someone before they can even speak!)

  • They’re going to watch the video they came to watch, so we have some dwell time from ad exposure where they’ll have only seen your five-second ad

Well, using this information, you end up back at advertising 1-0-1: grab attention, land the message, and make sure you achieve brand recognition. Here’s an example of Squarespace doing it well:

So now you know, if you’re Squarespace, all those five-second views you’re racking up and reporting on are pretty meaningful metrics because you’ve effectively grabbed the audiences’ attention.

Knowing that we need to be considered and deliberate, in the sense of our platform, audience, and story, is a process that will help us stay as close to the path to success as possible:

Ultimately though, we do exist in a murky intersection with a great deal of chance. We could hit a gold-mine or fall completely flat in this risky game that all marketers play. But thinking about how attention works, and relishing that we do have so many diverse people, big moments and scaled platforms to build connections with an ever-growing pool of consumers means we can be uniquely daring and empowered to deliver on our mandate to engage and excite.

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And anyways, how boring would it be to advertise to a goldfish? 🎣