The Cost of Consumer Attention in Our Cluttered Digital Landscape

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We’re asking consumers to apply their minds at moments where that isn’t possible.

Can I have your actual attention? To read this, you’ll have to sacrifice part of your mind to process what I want to say, so I better get it right or you won’t come back again.

This is the basic transaction we’re making with consumers every day, and it’s easy for us to forget how hard it can be to focus. Right now, you’ve probably considered leaving this article to check that latest Twitter notification or Instagram story update. Some of you already have.

When we break through, it works. When it doesn’t, consumers move on.

That cost is tremendous when taken in total, millions of dollars every day are lost due to viewability issues (Forrester Research found that U.S. marketers wasted as much as $7.4 billion on digital display ads alone last year, 56% of those from ads that were either fraudulent or unviewable inventory).

It’s our responsibility to figure out what went wrong — why the message wasn’t right, how the creative could be stronger, why the targeting was off, or how to tell if it’s humans or bots who are watching. Fair enough, our daily challenge as marketers is figuring out how to optimize everything and adapt accordingly.

That’s also why capital-a Attention is creeping back into marketing narratives. Targeting and measurement today are better than ever. Sponsored content looks more like original programming than advertising. DNA-testing giant Ancestry moonlights as a partner for the show Who Do You Think You Are?, returning to NBC after a seven-year hiatus to help celebrities uncover their family histories. We’re so good at these things, yet when campaign metrics and conversions don’t meet expectations, Attention becomes the next factor to test.

It’s very difficult to find moments to reach consumers when they aren’t distracted. We think of true engagement as being deeply engrossed in original programming, binging The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel for a few hours, but 45% of viewers often or always use devices while watching TV (Nielsen).

Even the best original programming faces the same challenge brand campaigns do. What good is a great campaign if it’s delivered in a way that the intended recipient isn’t capable of paying attention?

We need to seriously consider Attention as the new engagement and targeting. So, if great content is the “What” we capture consumer attention with, perhaps we also seriously consider where and when they pay attention and give consideration the most?

According to a study GSTV commissioned with Mastercard, consumers are +3.7x more attentive to advertising when on the go. Given that consumers also check their phones 52 times a day (Deloitte), advertisers should start addressing viewer attention by reaching them when they aren’t in their homes juggling screens.

Tune out is inevitable, and where brands win the game of Attention is being where their consumers are, leaning on the strengths of a diverse omnichannel strategy to entertain and inform consumers as their attention wanes from screen to screen. GSTV is a measurable solution to help solve the fight for attention. In fact, we have the Attention of 93 million captive adults 18+ every month, for an undistracted 3-5 minutes, in a 1:1 engagement while they fuel up their vehicles — at a natural pause point in their day. GSTV’s reach is a compliment to TV buys, boosting campaign reach and engaging consumers on days we know they are spending more money.

With content more engaging than ever, and distraction at an all time high, Attention is a vital ingredient to accelerating consumers along their journey. Meeting consumers in the right place, with the right messaging, and during the right time in their day is a winning Attention formula. Advertisers who understand this and figure out how to get their message across to a captive and broad audience leveraging data and targeting, rise above and win.

Sean McCaffrey

President and CEO at GSTV

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