Attention Economy, a concept first expressed in the 1970s and then developed by well-known business strategists, is now the basis of a new business model centred on attention as a scarce resource and on creativity as the fulcrum of marketing strategies, against information overload. This phenomenon translates into a reduction of both the user's attention span in the fruition of contents and the ability to acquire and interpret new inputs.
Key points of the article:
The rapid growth of information caused a depletion of attention. The more we are bombarded with information and advertising on a daily basis, the less we focus on it.
More and more resources will be invested in creating advertising that captures and retains human attention.
It is increasingly necessary to be genuine and honest in order to deserve the attention of the public, especially at a time when we have long been bombarded and disoriented by crisis-related content.
Definition of Attention Economy
The meaning of Attention Economy lies in the approach to information management, according to the economic theory that considers an individual's attention as a scarce commodity. Why should you care about this? The answer is simple: because we are living in a society where potential buyers/consumers are overwhelmed by content and information about products, services or experiences. Human attention is increasingly a limited resource, so valuable that it is conceived as the new business currency.
Who coined the concept of Attention Economy? The Nobel Prize winner Herbert A. Simon, psychologist and economist, was the first in 1971 to point out that the wealth of information available consumes the attention of recipients, thus creating poverty of attention; thus laying the foundation for the modern elaboration of the theory of attention economy.
In this perspective Thomas H. Davenport and JC Beck (2001) relate the concept of Attention Economy and the brain: it is by becoming aware of the information element that we recognise it and decide whether and how to act. In an environment overloaded with readily available information, attention becomes a limiting factor in the consumption of content, as the mental capacity of humans is limited in the reception of information: it is attention that filters the most important and functional information for the human brain.
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Dentsu research on the Attention Economy
The most recent contribution on this topic is Dentsu's Attention Economy research (Agency Network International), which analysed 17,000 individual video ad exposures across three platforms: linear TV, in-feed video on social media and pre-roll on video platforms, using eye-tracking technology and the latest research panels in the UK, US and Australia.
The results of the Attention Economy research confirm that attention is also a scarce resource in advertising: only a third of ads get the audience's full attention, with most people using skip ads when expected or looking away when forced to see them. The way in which the user sees advertising today fades into a peripheral and incomplete view of the ad, without, however, compromising its effectiveness if it is properly constructed. If it is true that effectiveness is closely related to the time and the visible portion of an ad, research shows that other factors, which we will see later, are important to increase the audience's attention.
The economy of attention applied to advertising requires that the advertisement meets the interest of the user. Only if an advertisement provides quality information to the viewer can it intercept their attention by being visible to the eye.
After having seen what Attention Economy means, we can deduce that to be effective, a message must be narrative, tell in a clear and simple way what it wants to communicate and leave no room for interpretation.
Moreover, never neglect emotion as a fundamental creative factor: the emotional trigger activates the user's attention, helping him to quickly grasp the relevant information, on the basis of which he is then able to make a judgement, with as little effort as possible, and act accordingly.
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Attention Economy and advertising
From the data of the research on the attention economy introduced in the previous paragraph, the attention to advertising contents is higher in the fruition of video ads from mobile, in trend with the exponential increase of interest in videos by online users. Hence the importance for companies to develop an advertising planning that involves video production and social media distribution in the communication.
According to the approach that links the concepts of Attention Economy and social media, there are two key factors that help the message to gain the attention of a very difficult audience like the social networking one, engaged in an endless scroll: creativity and content. But let's take a look at some tips for more effective creativity:
- avoid placing the logo or brand name near the "Skip Ad" button, choosing a prominent position with greater visibility;
- insert a CTA (call to action) to keep the user on the intended path;
- use different shots and frames;
- use shorter formats for promotional messages;
- place sonic brands (jingles or sound tagging) at the beginning of the ad.
As users today have more tools to avoid ads, it is very important to test which creative works best and which ads catch users' attention, in order to increase ROI (Return of Investment) and sales.
Finally, for brands, presenting themselves as creators on their You Tube channel can be a great opportunity to further engage current and potential customers with content that is always well aligned with brand values.
Attention Economy and Social Media
The ever-increasing presence of users on social networks means that they invest a large part of their attention there. This obliges companies to develop effective social media communication that captures this attention and turns it into conversions. Communicating on social media is a key activity in marketing plans and, beyond the specificities of each, are functional in terms of Attention Economy to:
raise awareness of the activity;
carry out a precise segmentation and obtain a hyper-profiling of the audience;
create a direct relationship with people;
Knowing how to use them well means achieving Branding objectives (Awareness-Cosideration) within the platforms, Drive to Site objectives (Performance on line) and Drive to Store objectives (Performance off line).
We've seen what the Attention Economy is and how media works, now you may be wondering, how do you capture attention on social? One of the central principles of the Attention Economy is message relevance: customers are unlikely to be interested in advertising that is not in line with their needs. Hence the need to target the audience according to the buyer personas identified for your business.
Attention Economy in Digital Marketing
As we have seen, attracting attention is a prerequisite for doing business: people, ideas, goods and companies count, as long as they are visible and communicate. Visibility equals sales, a concept well expressed by the Anglo-Saxon motto "unseen unsold". You may wonder, then, what the Attention Economy's main challenge for companies will be: to win the attention of customers, an increasingly complicated undertaking to achieve in an extremely competitive context characterised by huge amounts of available information.
So, attention share is a new marketing metric that measures brand performance in the attention economy. Building a new attention strategy means first understanding what consumers' cognitive and emotional reactions are to a message and then identifying what attracts their attention and why.
The Push Model (traditional marketing approach based on sending ads to an indiscriminate target) does not work in digital marketing. The strategy must be directed in a differentiating way using the right Segmenting-Targeting-Positioning: applying the Pull Model attracts the potential customer with an approach based on empathy and his needs. The priority is, therefore, to develop awareness and knowledge by building a deeper relationship with your customers to develop effective and successful strategies. And it is important to always ask yourself: have I chosen the right platforms for communication? Am I using the tools provided by each effectively to capture the attention of customers?
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