I was at a talk recently when the speaker sang an ad jingle from her childhood as a reminder to the audience, mostly the younger end of GenZ that there was a time when people actually liked ads, sometimes even more than the content they appeared in. It was a time of shared cultural currency when you could easily find a bunch of people who could wax lyrical about ads like they do now about programmes on Googlebox. Figures for people saying they are happy with advertising in return for free content have been in rapid decline for years but as we face tough economic times, people are more open to it. As subscriptions to streaming services get culled and Netflix enters the advertising fray we can’t ignore this tension.

Caitriona Henry

It’s in this context that the industry’s focus on attention is so timely. Not the one size fits all approach. The ‘assault the senses’ approach that has dominated the promotional landscape – loud ads and product messaging that stalks you long after your need, has well and truly expired. At a time when the average person has to scroll through the equivalent of the Eiffel tower of content each day, a focus on respecting consumer attention (apart from much needed relief for thumbs) is good news for all.

It’s an exciting time because it moves us forward to embrace creativity in communications. We are now learning so much about how great creative and media teams together can develop truly memorable experiences. We know more about how to work with the ever-expanding range of platforms in a way that reflects the behaviour of consumers on those platforms and plays to their strengths. What we can focus on is balancing the subtle message, with the more direct, in a more inspirational and compelling way – one that consumers will more happily give attention to and we have proven metrics to help steer creators using better guidance than just the length of the film required. 

This is an opportunity for a communication renaissance to really leverage the capabilities of the new platforms, the new content creation tools, the wonderful immersive emerging technologies where media, tech and commerce merge. It requires us to collaborate to create experiences that draws consumers into the right editorial environment; that connects with ethnic and cultural forces; that considers the brand drivers of intent e.g. likeability of value; that caters to the device and gets the message focus right. All factors that influence the right amount of attention required. 

This new focus on attention brings us back to building great communications that we can be proud of and that consumers want to watch. At a time when talent is leaving the communications industry in droves, this gives a new energy to attract them with the opportunity to make advertising they can be proud of. An understanding of attention brings us back consider not just what we communicate but whether we in fact should. It inspires us to cultivate ideas that resonate, ideas that join the dots and take a creative leap forward.

As technology advances so too does the opportunity to bombard our audience. My ask of you is that we, as marketers, start now and use the ever growing understanding of how attention works to create communications that respect consumer attention. Pay attention, let’s embrace the opportunity to create great advertising.