Will Scougal
Jan 22, 2024

Attention isn’t dead – how to get attention in a world of attention seekers

The advertising industry is built on the search for attention, nothing we do in this industry works without it. The problem, however, is that apparently no one has any left to give.

Attention isn’t dead – how to get attention in a world of attention seekers

We’re done. Spent. Attention is at net zero. There’s so much out there asking, inviting, demanding, pleading for our attention that we’ve become incredibly good at tuning it out, or just plain blocking it. That’s why, as one friend put in a recent LinkedIn post, advertising in digital can sometimes feel like the menu in the popular fried chicken chain ‘Morley’s’ – a little bit shouty.

In part, that’s because the most popular digital environments have been designed to facilitate fast scrolling and effortless consumption. As brands compete among the posts of friends, heroes, celebrities, news outlets and influencers of their customers, the broadly accepted best practice is to get into the feed as much as possible and say what you need to say fast and loud.

Short vs long term benefits

This approach may deliver short-term metrics, but it doesn’t build long term impact or emotional connection. As digital audiences continue to mature and include more people who have grown up with smartphones, which in turn have become increasingly powerful creative tools, consumption and creation habits are changing. We're seeing platforms build out more immersive, visual feeds and provide opportunities for long form content, while also investing in native creative tools such as AR and rewarding creators financially.

This, coupled with the continued growth in gaming – 3bn people globally consider themselves gamers – and the popularity of podcasts has led to areas of the internet where people are more attentive, creative and engaged. Where more people are having fun with the content they’re publishing and the conversations they’re having with online groups. Where people are able to step away from feeds and have deeper digital experiences.

Podcast advertising is a great example, over 90mn people will tune into podcasts in North America this month and they now reach over a fifth of internet users. To keep the listeners attention advertisers need to work with the format, in some cases to contribute to the style and content of the listening experience. Likewise, in-game worlds offer limitless creative and experiential potential when they’re approached in the right way.

The opportunities within social AR

This brings me to augmented reality (AR), social AR in particular, which is approaching a monthly user base of 1.5bn across major social platforms. Brands can create experiences that are embedded into the user experience (UX) people already choose to use. Creative tools available to advertisers are becoming comparable to those available for video, meaning the tactics, techniques and opportunities to reach and create with audiences are evolving too. With social AR, it’s now possible for brands to frequently increase reach and engagement across large social platforms. On TikTok, we see AR powering branded user-generated-content that’s minutes long and gaining millions of views.

It’s clear from this that attention is there – if you know where to look. Brands can compliment high volume, feed-focused creative with connection building craft. As attention flows across the internet and our messages appear in short bursts, we can now also deliver moments of deeper connection at scale.

Historically, this might have been seen as expensive or complex, neither of which is the case. Compare the attention and contextual relevance captured through the attention and experience delivered in AR for example, to the cost and complexity of shooting a genuinely compelling TV spot, and efficiencies can quickly be found.

Consumer attention spans in digital should no longer be thought of as diminishing but instead be embraced as fluid and diverse. Switching between the involuntary attention of feed style content and the voluntary attention of deeper digital experiences. Flowing through fast paced feeds and pooling in moments of depth. The digital audiences of today are looking for more than a snack. After all, fast food menus offer convenience and flavor but they’re often scant on nutrition.

Will Scougal is the founder & managing director of Make My Day

Performance Marketing World

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