Angeline Lodhia
May 7, 2019

Time to bring back the matching luggage?

To attract and hold attention amid ad clutter, start with a time-tested devotion to engaging the pattern-matching instincts of human beings.

Time to bring back the matching luggage?

When it comes to measuring the success of digital campaigns, most experts agree that current techniques just aren’t working.

Despite this, and in the APAC region particularly, there is still an over-reliance on vanity metrics like viewability which, while helpful in showing us that an ad has been seen, reveal very little about the impact the ad has had on the viewer. In the UK, meanwhile, the IAB has been condemning brands using CTRs, and even launched its own event last month with the aim of encouraging brands to adopt better metrics.

Research shows that prioritising attention is in fact a much better barometer for analysing the impact of ads on consumers. Data from Lumen Research found that longer viewing times encouraged brand recall, for instance, with only 35% of users able to recall an advertised brand after 0 to 1 seconds of visual engagement time. This rises to 50% after 1 to 2 seconds engagement, however.

But with ad-spaces over-crowded, and nearly half of APAC consumers installing ad-blockers, how can brands strike a balance between drawing attention to their ads, while remaining as unobtrusive as possible?

Return to instinct

It all starts with biology—and specifically, our inherent skill to recognise patterns.

Since early humans were living in caves, being able to recognise patterns was the key to helping us differentiate between poisonous and safe-to-eat berries—quite literally a life and death decision.

And this penchant for recognising patterns has not disappeared. In fact, it’s the same skill that allows us to read words, understand language, recognize faces and even enjoy music.

For an example of just how useful this ability is, you only need to look at the hundreds of millions of dollars being poured into Machine Learning and AI systems to teach them how to recognise and group things appropriately—something we are good at on a case by case basis, but machines are better at on a larger scale.  

This in-built ability in humans to recognise patterns is a gift for attention seeking brands, because it means they can rely on certain reactions when presenting audiences with visual prompts that appeal to this subconscious drive.

In our investigation, for instance, we found that campaigns with ads that looked similar to each other—thereby fulfilling this requirement—attracted 170% more attention from viewers. Those with ads that looked different saw an uplift of just 3%.

These uplifts are incremental to the benefits found in Inskin’s research earlier this year where we discovered that MPUs preceded by a high-impact format attracted far more attention than they otherwise would.

Lessons from the past

This technique around developing creatively in-sync campaigns—dubbed “matching luggage”—is nothing new to the marketing-verse. But in the past 15 years, as digital media has really come into its own, the number of campaigns using this approach has dropped significantly, according to research by the IPA.

With research linking creative cohesion across different ad formats to attention levels, however, it’s obvious this technique has bigger implications for the media planning process than has perhaps been realised.

In digital display marketing specifically, the matching luggage technique might also be the key to mitigating the negative impact of ad clutter, which—with competition in the space increasing—is a growing problem.

Even moderate ad clutter, like three formats being served on the same page, has been shown to decrease the visual engagement time and visual engagement frequency of ads. But creatively consistent executions might just present a way for ads sharing the same environment to be mutually reinforcing rather than distracting.

And with so few people looking at ads online (just 12% of served digital ads are ever seen, and only 4% looked at for one second or more), being able to draw people’s attention to ads for as long as possible is vital.

Putting digital creativity first

Digital creativity is often pushed to the back of the agenda, with even the likes of Cannes Lions failing to recognise this important process in its awards line up.

But with evidence suggesting creatively coherent campaigns are more successful, it’s time we start giving digital creativity the respect it deserves, by making it a priority, rather than an afterthought.

In display advertising, finding ways to increase the attention potential of standard ads, especially through optimisation methods that don’t require increased budgets, could help lift both short- and long-term profitability of digital ad spend.

So, brands that take this new understanding into account right at the start of the planning process will find they’re soon reaping the rewards of their efforts.

Angeline Lodhia is Asia GM with Inskin Media.

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