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Navigating the Attention Economy

By February 11, 2021No Comments
A man divides his attention between a laptop and a phone

The internet has “rewired our brains” according to Michael Goldhaber, a former theoretical physicist turned predictor of how the internet has affected our collective attention spans. Goldhaber asserts that attention is transactional, and in paying attention to one thing, we ignore something else and the internet has created even more of a strain on our attention spans. This is the attention economy.

As the world changes, and the internet has evolved, advertising and marketing have evolved as well. In the old days of advertising, with less options, attention was easier to grab. Now, with social media, apps, podcasts, online publications, and streaming services, our attention is much more divided.

In fact, our attention is now as much of a currency as actual money as platforms provide free services with interruptions for ads. Our attention to those ads makes these platforms money. Some companies, like Spotify, have developed a split model of revenue. Users navigating the attention economy can pay for the service with their attention and have ads interspersed throughout their listening experience, or they can pay for an ad-free experience.

So how do we, as marketers, compete for the attention of our target audiences? There are several factors to consider including design, and targeting.

Attention from Design

Banner ads at the top of websites used to be highly effective, until users started simply ignoring these kinds of ads, developing, “banner blindness”. Users are used to seeing ads at the top of and at the right on websites, so they don’t pay attention to the content in those areas. This happens with inline ads on mobile as well.

The types of visuals are also important. Taboola has created a trends platform that shows the kinds of images that people are responding to the most. This tracking system is useful to designers to help them keep a finger on the pulse of the target audience.

Knowing about these kinds of biases, designers need to look for alternative ways to place ads. A study from the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) showed that ads placed alongside quality, compelling content were more likely to grab attention. In the same vein, ads served on reputable sites were deemed more credible and worthier of attention.

Attracting Your Target Audience

One of the most important keys for success in advertising is making sure you have the medium for the right audience. This has become even more important as media changes and users have even more options when it comes to their attention.

Choose the right platform. Looking to sell a product to Baby Boomers? SnapChat won’t be a good platform because Snap appeals more to Gen Z. Don’t waste your resources trying to reach an audience that just isn’t there.

Target your audience’s interests. The more you can target your audience, the more likely you are to capture the attention of the people who really are interested in your product or services. If you want to sell to auto mechanics, don’t just target people who like cars—go granular.

Choose the right time and place. When is your target audience online? Plan your ads to run during those times. In addition, use geofencing to put your ads in front of your ideal consumer when they are close to your product or storefront.

As the demands on our attention increase, marketers must be more mindful of how we create, place, and schedule ads. If attention is currency we must be sure that we are seeking it efficiently and effectively. If you need assistance with your marketing needs, contact Baseline Creative.