The Crisis of Consumer Attention Reaches the Tipping Point for Advertisers

The interruptive strategies of digital marketing are in fact contributing to a decline in consumer attention. That’s the premise behind Attention Please, a research program undertaken by Magnetic Media in partnership with PHD Media and Bournemouth University. 

The researchers set out to answer some key questions about our increasingly self-disrupting habits, to help advertisers and marketers understand the links between attention and human nature.

As advertising costs rise, the research shows that the attention we pay to ads is dropping:

Programmatic advertising – which sells its value based on clicks and impressions – capitalizes on the attention-deficit economy. Yet the more meaningful and deeper attention that brands truly desire suffers.

At the same time, the report notes, “there is growing evidence that consumers demand for quality content is increasing.”

This presents a mandate for advertisers. If consumers’ eyes are wide shut to digital click-bait, the only solution is to make something better.

The report quotes Wired magazine founder Kevin Kelly saying, “The only way to win customers in the attention economy is to make something worth paying attention to. People don’t respond to facts about how your product will fill a practical need, they respond to stories about how it will fulfil a personal desire.”

And those stories cannot be told in click bait. What the researchers believe this is where print magazines rise above the noise to capture the kind of attention brands truly need.

“The value of magazines is that they garner high quality attention that can be cultivated over time. They don’t interrupt and grab attention,” the report notes. “They are solicited by readers who choose to invest their attention in them – their editorial, features and advertising – often paying a premium.”

Their recommendation? Stop spending money blindly trying to get people’s immediate attention where they aren’t able to give it. Instead, aim to build attention over the long run through creative, quality content that engages.

We’ve been preaching this for a while now. And the report does a great job of synthesizing the mounds of research out there supporting the value of print magazine content and ads. The fact is, consumers still have the attention span to engage with content they find valuable. The digital wasteland is forcing us to put more energy into focusing on what we find important. This is the moment when consumers are ready and waiting for brands to engage in ways we find truly meaningful.