Archive for the ‘Attention’ Category

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Creating a path of least resistance

July 22, 2010

eMarketer just posted an article titled Where to Reach Women Online. What caught my attention was the bar chart (on the right) showing what women are most likely to notice on the Internet. There isn’t anything surprising about the responses here, but digital strategists should take note. The chart is actually an engagement funnel.

Using this funnel, marketers who are trying to engage women online would start by offering a discount, not by eliciting questions/opinions about the product. The idea is simple: invite consumers to participate in each subsequent brand activity in the order of their interest.

  1. Provide a discount, then invite participation in…
  2. An opportunity to win a prize, then invite participation in…
  3. A survey or quiz, then invite participation in…
  4. A social/chat feature to share opinions, then invite participation in…
  5. Viewing a video about the product or company…

Whenever possible, give consumers a path of least resistance.

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Attention and Intention

July 2, 2010

Bob Hoffman, the provocative blogger at AdContrarian.com asks “After 15 years, can anyone name even ten serious non-native consumer-facing brands that have been created by web advertising? Is there a brand of coffee, butter, beer, bread, chicken, gasoline, soda, peanut butter, dog food, milk, tires, potato chips, life insurance, lawn mowers…don’t make me go on, you get the point…that has been built primarily by web advertising?”

Although “non-native consumer-facing brands” is quite a caveat, and Bob forgets to mention the Internet as a mainstream advertising media is barely over a decade old, AND less than 10% of all ad dollars are spent online, he still has a point.

But the takeaway isn’t ‘web advertising is a failure.’ Far from it. To understand the role of digital marketing you need to understand the mindset of Internet users.

Marketing via traditional media is mostly about attention. Media planners are interested in demographics and relevance. They ask ‘does this programming sync with consumers who are most likely to buy the product being advertised?’ Media planners have few clues whether or not a viewer has any real intent to buy the product/service being advertised. I’ve watched hundreds, maybe thousands of TV ads by Geico and Progressive, and I have zero intent to purchase any of their fine services.

Internet users have an intention mindset. That explains why over 60% of online ad dollars are spent on search. When people are in the hunt for a particular product or service category, then tend to seek out product information, authorities, and reputations via digital media. They don’t sit in front of their TV sets to see which advertisement is most persuasive before making a purchase decision.

I realize I’m making some broad generalizations here. Most people don’t go online to research a candy bar or dish soap, and many brands move the awareness needle via web advertising. The point I want to make is marketing goals, user mindsets and media attributes should be a driving force behind any marketing strategy.

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Exposure is just a means to an end

March 11, 2010
The basic idea behind marketing communications hasn’t really changed much over the years, but it’s amazing how this industry continues to miss what’s important. We also seem to miss there’s an actual progression to achieving a marketing goal.

The goal of marketing communications is to change the way a group of people think or feel about a brand. Ulimately, we’re trying to change what people do. Usually, buy the brand.

There’s a natural progression to changing thoughts, feelings, and behavior, and that’s where most marketers seem to stumble. Marcom always involves three basic steps: exposure, attention, and engagement. Without attention or engagement, you can’t ever hope to change a behavior.

Traditionally agencies and media firms have been rewarded based on exposure metrics like impressions and GRPs. Oddly, exposure to a marketing communication activity doesn’t mean the consumer had any awareness of the brand message. In fact, advertising agencies rarely know how many people exposed to an activity actually exhibited any awareness of or engagement with the activity.

There are many levels of awareness and engagement, and awareness tends to bleed into engagement. Engagement is a bit easier to measure because it requires an action from the user, but measuring awareness can be difficult.

We know higher levels of awareness and engagement translate into greater opportunities to change thinking, feelings, and behavior of a consumer. We also know awareness and engagement translates into sales.

Marketers should be placing much more emphasis gauging the effectiveness of their marcom by measuring awareness and engagement, not by relying on what’s easiest to measure: exposure.
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TV Ad Exposure Exposed

February 28, 2010

Over the past decade or so there has been a lot of talk about the diminishing efficacy of TV advertising, but I’m not sure how much of this criticism gets to the heart of the matter. According Nielsen the average American still consumes over four hours of TV programming everyday and ad skipping via DVRs still seems to be negligible.

In 2009 Sequent Partners, Ball State University’s Center for Media Design, the Council for Research Excellence, and Nielsen reported findings of a ground breaking research project. If you want to get a better understanding of how Americans use media, I highly recommend reading the full report.

The study reported “TV users were exposed to, on average, roughly an hour a day (61.1 minutes) of live TV ads and promos.” This figure may be a bit inflated, but still stunning if you consider the average participant’s total exposure to computer and mobile screens was only 2 hours and 43 minutes a day. As a comparison, the average daily exposure to television clocked in at 6 hours and 3 minutes. For some reason participants in this study consumed two more hours of television everyday than the Nielsen panel – as reported in the Nielsen Three Screens Report.

What really troubles me about studies like this is the phrase ‘exposure to TV ads’. I submitted a request to the CRE for their definition but haven’t heard back yet. From what I can deduce, ‘exposure to ads’ means being in close enough proximity to a TV to see and/or hear the advertisements. Exposure doesn’t necessarily mean looking at the TV or actively listening to the audio. And there lies the problem.

“Exposure” is not a useful measure of consumer attention or engagement, and without at least a minimal level of attention, one would assume a TV advertisement would have little if any effect on the user.

So what do we know about TV ad exposure and a viewer’s level of attention? Not much, and I’m not so sure our industry is eager to find out.

Page 46 of the VCM final report includes a chart illustrating ‘concurrent media exposure’ during regular TV content and advertisements. The diagram is cryptic, but its obvious concurrent media exposure is significantly elevated when TV commercials are running. I assume environmental factors such as conversations, etc. are accounted for in the data represented by the blue triangle.

Concurrent media exposure sounds benign. Most people assume they can “multi-task” and successfully consume multiple media streams simultaneously. As I noted last November, researchers at Stanford University study found media multi-taskers cannot process more than one information string at a time. A 2007 MRI study reported similar findings.

Based on the VCM study and other studies, I diagrammed my hypothesis of how much attention viewers pay to TV advertising. During TV advertisements, the percentage of viewers who are highly engaged is quite small. How small? We don’t know for sure. To my knowledge, nobody has done a comprehensive study to find out how attentive viewers are to TV commercials. And that seems quite odd given billions of dollars are spent on television advertising every year.

So what does this all mean? Every marketing communications activity should be evaluated by attention and engagement measures, not exposure. CPM (cost-per-thousand) can be extremely misleading when comparing one marcom activity to the next.

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The Price For Attention…Going Up?

November 28, 2009

Out of the hundreds of RFPs and briefs I’ve read over the past several years, the majority of them say creating ‘increased attention’ for a particular brand (product or service) is their primary goal.

Our industry doesn’t have a reliably accurate awareness metric like Cost-Per-Attention. Sure, we can commission recall studies, or extrapolate neuromarketing results to ad exposures, but no one can truly measure the cost for generating attention or recall, let alone attribute those costs to a specific marketing activity. But if we could…

Will marketers pay more or less to generate attention in the future?

My sense is marketers are an optimistic bunch. They see technology as a cost-cutter, providing advances in media mix modeling, behavioral targeting, and results attribution – things that should lead to greater efficiency. They also see developments in digital media and what has been touted as Web 2.0 as an effective, low cost method of engaging consumers and generating awareness via word of mouth.

On the flip side, we’re seeing an avalanche of content, media, and activities competing for attention. Media costs aren’t getting cheaper and consumers are increasingly successful in avoiding advertising. We’re also seeng more SKUs and services than ever, all competing for our attention.

Add to that the cost of agency services. Margins are falling as brand marketers adopted a cattle-call/jumpball approach to selecting agencies. What brand marketers don’t seem to understand is they’re paying bloated rate cards to offset the increasing cost of prospecting and pitching. Every time a brand manager does an agency search, or sends out an RFP to a dozen agencies, they’re burning tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of dollars in agency costs. Those costs need to be made up somewhere, and in the end, they’re paid in hidden fees by the agency’s customers – the brand.

My guess is price for attention is going to increase over the coming years, but unfortunately nobody will be measuring it.

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Can Attention Really Get More Diluted?

November 22, 2009

According to the most recent Three Screen report from Nielsen 57% of Americans use TV and the Internet simultaneously. This may sound like just another media factoid until you realize media-multitaskers suck at media-multitasking.

In a recent Stanford University study researchers found media-multitaskers cannot process more than one information string at a time.

“When they’re in situations where there are multiple sources of information coming from the external world or emerging out of memory, they’re not able to filter out what’s not relevant to their current goal,” said Wagner, an associate professor of psychology. “That failure to filter means they’re slowed down by that irrelevant information.”

Even when people aren’t consuming more than one media, they admit to being less than focused. A 2007 MRI study reported “34.7% of TV viewers and 16.5% of radio listeners report being “very focused” while using these media – compared with 54.6% for internet users, 50.0% for newspaper readers and 41.8% for magazine readers.”

What does this mean to marketers? More media touchpoints don’t necessarily mean a better chance of getting a consumer’s attention, and exposure metrics like GRPs, impressions, and views need to be taken with a huge grain of salt.

If most people aren’t very attentive to the content they’re consuming, just how attentive can they be to your advertising?