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Marketing Attention Span Impressions

Digital campaign effectiveness is all about capturing (and holding) attention

By Yussuf Aamer | Digital Experience Specialist



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December 7, 2023 | 8 min read

Everyone’s chasing ‘digital effectiveness’, but it’s not easy to achieve in a world of dwindling attention spans and multiplying media. Here, Impression’s Yussuf Aamer looks at what really is effective.

An eye lit up in the darkness

Brands, are you paying attention to customers on digital channels? / Brands&People via Unsplash

It’s 6:45 am, time to wake up. It’s too early for emails but you can’t resist a quick scroll on your favorite app. At the breakfast table, the TV is on for some background noise. Alexa chimes in with the weather. Your stroll to work begins and you resume the podcast you started listening to in the gym last night. As you’re walking, ads are on buses, taxis, and billboards. When you get to the office, you realize that you haven’t really been listening to the podcast at all.

According to eye-tracking studies, less than half of digital ads are viewed at all; a mere 9% are viewed for a second or more. Of those viewed for at least a second, less than half produce an emotional response. And on average, less than 2% of those exposed to digital advertising actually convert into customers.

So: infinite messages are constantly competing to capture consumers’ attention, and most digital advertising is ineffective. How can your digital advert be memorable and effective when most are not?

Here are 3 ways to improve the effectiveness of your digital advertising efforts.

1. Change your channel mix

Digital media channels offer an always-accessible, inexhaustible supply of content. A prerequisite of any response is attention, and although choices seem endless, attention is not.

And when it comes to attracting attention, channels are not the same.

How you determine your channel selection and ad formats will depend on the perception you aim to build. Not every channel and format can be for brand building or sales activation. For example, skippable ads and unskippable ads have different impacts on users when it comes to memory and attention.

A thousand impressions on one channel are very different from a thousand impressions on another. Served impressions are the current standard for measuring content delivered on web pages but they have the ‘billboard’ challenge: it’s difficult to measure impact without deeper analysis.

Viewable impressions are arguably more rigorous in accounting for cases that might prevent an ad from being seen. Still, all ‘opportunities to see’ metrics (including impressions) can be problematic. A few years back, P&G cut the company’s digital spend by $200m and shifted focus from impressions, views and clicks to reach and the number of consumers they touched. The move resulted in 6% revenue growth in 2019.

Effectiveness is closely related to how much of an ad is viewable and for how long. Rather than aiming for full attention at any cost, the bigger win is to avoid full avoidance. Consider the advantages and limitations of each channel and its formats. Choose your instruments depending on the story you’re trying to tell.

2. Tinker with your creative

The average consumer gets hit with a lot of advertising messages every day. Your ad has 3 seconds to capture attention and evoke a positive emotion that is linked to your product or brand.

Evoking that emotion is all about the idea, the concept, and the execution. Ads that evoke emotions have four times the impact. If you get the idea right and execute it, make sure the frequency is working in your favor. As a rule, it takes 10 views for a user to memorize an ad. Make sure your brand is recognized within 2 seconds.

For different channels, think about different ad formats. Develop bespoke creative for each and consider any limitations. One study found that a sponsored Instagram story achieved a 70% increase in click-through rate versus the same ad placed in-feed.

Rely on different channels to capture customers at different stages of their journey and tailor your creative to engage them with the right message at the right place and the right time.

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3. Optimize your website experience

It takes users about 0.05 seconds to form an opinion about a website and decide whether to stay. The simplest and most subtle differences can subconsciously give you an edge (or take it away).

Listen to your users and understand their behavior, expectations, and motivations. Build an environment that guides and directs to conversion. Design a digital experience that inspires and motivates them to act.

Make sure the story your website tells aligns with the messaging communicated via your ads. Don’t treat every user on your site the same way. Personalize their experience based on their needs, wants, and perception of your brand – and where they are in their journey. Users who discovered your brand through search, for example, will have different expectations and intentions compared to users who clicked on your ad on Facebook. Design tailored experiences and serve them bespoke content so they buy into you, no matter what stage they are on their journey.

Test new ideas through an experimentation program. This will encourage you to take more risks and be more innovative. Backed by data, you gain a clearer understanding of what works and what doesn’t, removing guesswork or decisions based on hunches. Take a scientific approach and apply behavioral science and psychology. Learn, make changes and repeat.

Marketing Attention Span Impressions

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We are Digital Growth Specialists helping ambitious brands push boundaries and drive impact. We define and deliver integrated digital strategies that transform our clients from market players to market leaders, and keep them there.

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