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Re-evaluating advertising effectiveness based on “attention” being the new currency

Consumer attention is rapidly becoming a measurement criterion for measuring effectiveness in media purchasing. Research shows that deviations in attention to advertisements add disadvantages for advertisers and come at an expense of the communication and sales effect of the advertisements.

Research has shown that consumers are easily distracted by the sheer volume of ads they are exposed to daily. As the brain has a limited capacity to process information, it must focus its attention. As a result, consumers sometimes actively avoid advertisements altogether. They do this by scrolling, clicking/zapping, or by multi-screening, and thus consuming another medium at the same time when the commercial break starts.

Various factors can cause advertising to attract more attention:

  • Screen coverage → the larger the part of the screen or print medium that is covered by the advertisement, the more attention consumers pay
  • Media clutter → the fewer alternatives a medium show around the advertisement, the greater the attention of consumers for the advertisement.

In the current ‘attention crisis’ marketers need to rethink how to increase attention for their ads. This can be done by making well-considered choices when choosing the medium on which an advertisement is shown. Many media companies see the urgency to re-evaluate the effectiveness of ads for different media based on attention because attention has a direct relationship with sales.

Advertisers have a habit of underestimating the effectiveness of traditional media, however, the research below done by a Dutch master’s student as Erasmus in Rotterdam indicates that traditional media is still the most effective in attracting consumer attention to advertising.

Results of the research
Attention is defined as a process in which, after seeing the advertisement, actual processing takes place in the brain. Attention can occur in different degrees:

  • High attention → effectiveness increases the most
  • Low attention → still a good chance that the advertising will affect – as advertisements consumed with low attention can still affect consumer behaviour because humans function in a standard state of the subconscious mind where we have a broad and nonspecific focus on everything around us.

Attention can be drawn by using certain ‘attention triggers’:

  • Creative
  • Media factors → medium type
  • Consumer factors → how a consumer is consuming the medium.

Media factors that can influence consumer attention to advertisements are the rate at which media is consumed, the amount of alternative content and advertising on the medium (media clutter), the resemblance between the media content and the advertising, the amount of senses that are stimulated, the possibility for good visibility of advertising on a medium and the length of the advertising.

Factors that can influence consumer attention to advertising include attitude, motivation, the general intensity of consumption of the medium and distraction in the consumer’s environment.

Purchasing media based on attention is often purchased based on costs and reach. Also, the communication objectives of the campaign often determine which medium type is used.

Although the different media experts are not entirely in agreement with each other regarding their perception of consumer attention to advertising on different media types, a pattern can be detected. Namely, that traditional media is better at promoting consumer attention to advertising than online media.

The results of the quantitative research show that TV commercials receive more attention from consumers than advertisements on Facebook and YouTube:

All Response Media viewpoint.
Researches show that that traditional media is better at getting more consumer attention for their ads than online media. However, media is usually sourced based on reach and cost, and online ads are bought by many as they are cheaper – however, based on the research above, advertisers should consider re-evaluating their media mix to ensure they are optimising the media mix for their brand.

We at All Response Media however do believe that the best effectiveness is reached when there is a combination of traditional and online media. For one of our clients this year we were running traditional media from the start, but when this was combined with online, we saw the month on month results increasing by 15%.

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