Why brands must adapt to 'Generation SnapDash'

Marketers need to look beyond vertical video and views to genuinely engage consumers whose attention spans are decreasing fast, writes Nicola Kemp.

Shifting attention spans mean we need to move beyond measuring by click-throughs
Shifting attention spans mean we need to move beyond measuring by click-throughs
It appears that toddlers are not alone in their limited attention spans and impatience with uninvited commercial messages

Pre-roll ads provoke a singularly violent response in our household; the appearance of such uninvited ads on the iPad screen sparks a high-pitched squeal of disapproval. Granted, my son is on the cusp of the infamous ‘terrible twos’, but I can’t help thinking that he has a point. It may take up only a matter of seconds and crank up another view for the brand, but as a marketing tool, it is nothing but an empty promise.

It appears that toddlers are not alone in their limited attention spans and impatience with uninvited commercial messages. A recent Microsoft study cited the statistic that the average human attention span has fallen from 12 seconds in 2000 to eight seconds, which is less than that of a goldfish.

3V advertising

This may make welcome reading for SnapChat chief executive Evan Spiegel, who has placed being cool and elusive on pause to produce an 80s-style infomercial promoting the platform to brands. He is advocating "3V advertising", which stands for "vertical video and views". Spiegel claims that Snapchat users do not rotate their phones – therefore, vertical videos are far more effective at reaching millennial consumers.

Yet, while the shift to vertical formats may well be a no-brainer for brands seeking to connect with users on the platform, marketers must take care not to ask the wrong questions. Not only have attention spans decreased, but what constitutes attention has changed among Generation SnapDash – digital natives who have grown up with constant connectivity as a simple utility.

While traditional media-owners continue to fixate on outdated metrics such as bounce rates or views, smart marketers recognise they need to accept they must earn their brands’ place in consumers’ worlds

According to the Pew Research Center, 24% of teenagers say they go online "almost constantly", while 92% go online daily. As a result, a generation of consumers is coming through with a different framework for what constitutes attention and engagement.

There is little doubt that the proliferation of digital channels means that consumers have changed the way in which they allocate their attention. While traditional media-owners continue to fixate on outdated metrics such as bounce rates or views, smart marketers recognise they need to accept they must earn their brands’ place in consumers’ worlds.

Swipe left to engage

Instead of acting as a diversion or interruption, smart brands are offering consumers much-needed shortcuts to products, services or entertainment. It is a shift that goes far beyond the formats of advertising to the very foundations of marketing. From brands such as Sheva.com, which empowers consumers to change the world one period at a time by selling sanitary products that help to empower women in the developing world, to Tinder, the dating app that added "swipe left" to the vernacular, genuine engagement has moved beyond the antiquated notions of views or click-through rates.

Brands need to question whether they are asking too much of consumers, be that rotating their phone or typing 140 characters. Gen­­eration SnapDash may not comprise solely tyrannical toddlers, but they share a fierce demand for immediacy and relevance marketers can’t afford to ignore.

This is my last Shift for a while; by the time you read this my next little iPad-smasher will have been born. I’ll be back next year.

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