The digital age of smartphones and other devices has caused the average human attention span to decrease so much that even a goldfish can hold a thought for longer. Those with more digital lifestyles have difficulty focusing in environments where prolonged attention is necessary. With so much content available at our fingertips, we are becoming better at knowing what we want to engage with, and what we don’t. As I am writing this blog post, my iPhone next to me is an immediate distraction that prevents me from focusing all my attention on writing whenever it lights up.
This shortening attention span means that marketing needs to adapt and create new strategies to keep the attention of consumers. The average television ad is now just 15-seconds long, compared to the 30-second and full-minute commercials that used to be the standard decades ago. The NY Times cites a study of “viewer abandonment” in which an average of 20% of viewers abandon an online video after 10 seconds.
So how can marketers be sure that their dollars are being spent effectively and actually reaching customers who are paying attention?
Design interactive ads.
Interactive advertising is described as a form of media-based marketing that provides a two-way communication between advertisers and audiences. Elements of interactive video include:
- A clickable button for engagement via social media
- An ad selector that gives consumers a choice among multiple categories
- A window that pops up in which the audience can interact by answering a poll, or interacting with an animation
In 2013, only about 10-20% of all digital ads had some kind of interactive component. Today, that number is much higher with interactive components involved in banner ads on webpages, kiosks or electronic billboards on the street, as well as within video ads that play before a YouTube video for example. Even print ads in magazines allow consumers to use their smartphones in conjunction with the print ad to create an interactive experience.
An advertisement that requires the consumer to interact with it is more likely to be acknowledged rather than ignored or skipped.
- Volkswagen’s banner advertisement for the new Golf gives consumers the ability to solve a puzzle within the ad under a timer. (Click the link to play the banner ad game).
- McDonald’s banner advertisement allows you to click repeatedly on the button “Make it Better” and the ad changes each time you click with things like tomatoes rolling across the screen and doves holding a banner while the burger grows angel wings.(Click link to test it out).
- Taylors of Harrogate, a coffee and tea company, released a video ad on Facebook with a window where you can click and design your perfect coffee based on your preferences.
While binge watching missed episodes of New Girl on FOX.com, I was given the choice to participate in a 30-second interactive advertisement, or proceed with the traditional 2 minutes and 30 seconds of various ads. By choosing to participate in the interactive ad, I was more engaged and focused with the brand, whereas I probably would have picked up my phone and scrolled through social media for the duration of the 2:30 ads until the episode returned.
Create a meaningful message and tell stories.
As part of a requirement for my Marketing Principles class, I attended a lecture given by a VP of branding at Whirlpool. Traditional advertisements about appliances discussed new features of the products and how they were better than the competitors’. Whirlpool found that these ads were unsuccessful at leaving a lasting impact on the consumer and in fact, consumers still had a hard time differentiating various brands’ appliances even after watching the ads. Whirlpool came out with a strategy to design a purpose within their ads, and make them more about the story and less about the product.
This video ad above is more successful at sustaining a viewer’s attention when it tells a story with a message that is relatable. I am more likely to watch the entire advertisement, as well as share it with my friends, when there is a storyline that seems authentic.
Less is more.
In a 15-second advertisement, it can become difficult to tell an interesting brand story in such a short amount of time. As mobile video viewing grows rapidly, brands are recognizing the need to design simple yet powerful ads. Viewers soak up more information during shorter commercials and lose attention when exposed to longer content. Advertisers should focus on keeping content short, and include images and headlines that encompass the message entirely like the 5-second Coca-Cola ad below.
YouTube will soon roll out six-second ads that you can’t skip. These ads are designed keeping those in mind who use mobile as their first option for consuming video. It will help brands get their message across to consumers, and with such a short advertisement of only 6 seconds, every viewer will be paying attention.
So what does this all mean?
It is obvious that digital has completely changed the dynamics of marketing and how businesses communicate with consumers. The distractions of technology makes it harder for brands to capture our attention and easier for us to escape.
By designing interactive advertisements that engage viewers, creating meaning and stories within ads that relate to the viewer, as well as keeping in mind that simple and short ads sometimes are more impactful, marketers can better reach the consumers with digital lifestyles that have shorter attention spans than a goldf- wait where was I going with this sentence again?