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The key to engaging audiences in the attention economy

Why meeting consumers in the right mindset is crucial to campaign success

The key to engaging audiences in the attention economy

Surrounded by technology, constant system upgrades and responsive devices, consumers today are spoiled for choice when it comes to published content and personalised updates. What's scarce today isn’t the information they have access to — but the finite amount of attention they can give to that information. Because attention is limited and can be delineated at will, consumers have entered a phase that many experts are calling ‘the age of the attention economy’: when attention is not only a resource to be given, but a currency to be used. 

In order for a brand or organisation to stand out, it must not only offer outstanding products or services, but also catch and hold the right type of attention amidst a sea of countless other brands. 

This is an incredibly challenging task, and one that requires an understanding of not only advertising technology, but human psychology and behaviour — specifically the consumer mindset.

Views aren’t enough 
Viewability is a useful metric for establishing how many people could be exposed to a brand’s advert; however, it does not provide the full picture on attention. 

It’s no longer enough to simply place an ad in a location where it’s believed certain people will see it (like an above-the-fold banner or a pop-up ad). A consumer may be completely distracted when viewing it, which ultimately means lower recall and impact.

Brands that grab a person’s attention for several moments can successfully take hold in the public psyche, while those that only steal a brief glance from users are doomed to be forgotten or overlooked completely. To fall into the former category, a brand must consider consumer mindset. 

Three scenarios where users pay attention to ads 

According to studies by attention and advertising experts, there are three main scenarios in which people truly pay attention to ads:

  1. When an ad is placed where consumers expect to encounter new information: for example, when scrolling a newsfeed. In this scenario the mind is in “discovery mode” and open to paying attention to a message that matches that content style.

  2. When the consumer sees the ad while waiting for something to happen: for example, while waiting in line. In this scenario their mindset is opportunistic. They have the time to squeeze in information and respond to things that are interesting to them.

  3. When the consumer encounters the ad while having just finished an intellectually engaging activity: for example, immediately after finishing an article. In this scenario their mindset is one in which they’re wondering what’s next. They’ve finished the job at hand and are ready to be mentally and emotionally stimulated again.

The moment of next
Working with Nielsen, Taboola coined the term ‘moments of next’ to describe these moments. They’re the times and places in a consumer’s day at which they are most ready and willing to notice and engage with new information and offers. 

That same Nielsen study found that ads viewed in non-disruptive environments, like below the article or in a newsfeed, drove 25 per cent higher attentiveness than those placed in an interruptive environment like pre-roll.

Those ads in non-disruptive environments are also more likely to elicit a strong emotional response. Ads presented in moments of next drove a 13 to 23 per cent higher emotional response than the same ads in other environments. 

This is primarily due to cognitive load: the total amount of mental effort being used in the working memory at any one time. When a user’s cognitive load is high, it’s difficult to take in new information. When their cognitive load is low, they’re more open-minded and ready for new experiences. 

For example, imagine you’re trying to put out a fire, and someone comes along and offers you a burger. No matter how good the burger looks, you probably won’t take it or even pay much attention to it, because your mind is totally occupied by the task in front of you. Not only that, but you’d probably think less of the person who offered you the burger for having such terrible timing. Now, imagine you’ve put out that fire. You’re feeling relieved and accomplished, and the person comes up and offers you that same juicy-looking burger. Your mind is free, emotionally charged, and you’re more likely to say yes to that offer. 

That burger is also more likely to be remembered than other burgers because you're so emotionally charged. If you place an ad in a location where your consumer is likely to feel something, and in turn, encode a memory, they'll be more likely to recall the ad when it's time to buy, which is the advertiser’s ultimate goal.

So when planning your next campaign, it’s imperative to consider the attention economy, where the ads you buy are located, and the mindset the consumer is likely to be in at that moment. Considering all these factors is key to your ad achieving the greatest impact possible.

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