Winning the battle of attention

On 16/06/2017 by Araceli Almada

“We are living in the attention economy”. If you are a marketer, you probably understand what this means, but for those of you less familiar, let’s define this. “The attention economy” considers “attention” (of a person) as a limited resource. The reason being we only have so much of it. It is important to understand this as a marketer because it’s a criteria that we need to consider when we want our messages to be fully communicated. 


Social media and smartphones have been major players in making the world noisy. Social Media is a privileged touchpoint for brands that want to reach a massive audience and smartphones have made everyone “reachable” anytime. With both resources, it is now easier than before for brands to reach and have a conversation with their consumers. Although you need to understand where your audience is spending their time to be able to get their attention and engage them. The problem is that brands are producing more content than ever to get attention, but the amount of “available” attention from users hasn’t increased. On the contrary, our attention span tends to decrease over time considering the amount of information we receive. According to a study conducted by Microsoft, it went from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013. This led to a battle for attention and like in every battle, there are winners and losers. 


As advertisers multiply the attempts to capture our attention (according to E-Marketer, we are all exposed to an average of 300 advertising messages per day), users tend to avoid them. We all have developed a resistance to ads which has made us be more critical towards them. Over time we have become more difficult to convince and more demanding of quality content. Advertisers that will not consider nor satisfy their user’s interests and use intrusive or deceptive advertising, such as traditional banners, pre-roll videos or pop-ups will be the losers of this battle. They already are in part, responsible for the ad aversion and the main reason why people use ad-blockers. Hubspot conducted a study in 2016 that shows that 64% of users install an ad-blocker and do so because they find advertising annoying or intrusive. 


On the other side, winners of the battle for attention will be advertisers that know their consumers and understand what they want, which is non-intrusive formats and relevant content. These are the two conditions advertisers must fulfill if they want their content to win attention. First, non-intrusive formats are the ones that seamlessly blend within the publisher’s editorial environment, and a way to do this is by using native advertising. Most of the time, the most efficient message is not especially the biggest or the flashiest. On the contrary: the more discreet, and less intrusive can be the more engaging. 


Second, knowing your consumers also means knowing their interests. This means you need to use the right data and the right context to reach your audience and win their attention. By context we mean knowing the type of content the user consumes, and not only their behavior (cookies). This way, you can use this information to address a message that matches your user’s interest at the moment they express it. Let’s say your user wants to buy a new car. With contextual targeting, the publisher is able to display an ad from a car manufacturer exactly when the user is browsing through an automobile website looking for information. Whereas with behavioral targeting, such ads will be displayed just because you know the user has previously visited automobile-related websites, but it will displayed even when the user is looking for the score of their favorite soccer team. As you can see this does not make much sense, and at the end won’t really help you win the battle of attention


User experience is also a key factor of success (or failure) for publishers in the battle for attention. Meaning the design of the website, the editorial content, the advertising placements and the ads themselves influence the user’s attention. Considering the placements, you’ve probably heard about “banner blindness”. It’s the aversion users have today for traditional banner ads. This is an unconscious process that has made users not see banners anymore. Publishers that understand that users are smart, banner-blind and using ad blockers due to intrusive ads, will be taking a huge step forward in winning the battle for attention by proposing quality, relevant and non-intrusive formats and placements.


To summarize, both advertisers and publishers need to offer advertising that will provide a positive experience to win attention. The content of the ads must fulfill 4 conditions: 


It must be personalized. Users want tailored content, not generic or impersonal. 

It must be relevant, which means provided timely and according to the user’s interests. 

It must be non intrusive

It must be qualitative: providing a real value-added for users. 


Misleading users with fake news or deceptive advertising is the best way to break the relationship you have with them. 


Contact Us to learn more how we can help you win the battle of attention with our native advertising solutions.