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May 23, 2024

Attention advertising: real phenomenon or marketing fallacy?

Dayna Lang
Author Dayna Lang

It’s been said that we live in an attention-based economy – but what does that mean and does it translate into successful advertising? Attention advertising is making waves, but many marketers debate its validity and viability as a robust advertising strategy. 

We live in an attention economy

The term “attention economy” was coined by Herbert A. Simon, a Nobel-winning psychologist and economist. He declared attention to be the “bottleneck of human thought” and believed that human attention spans limited how much information we can consume and be stimulated by. Simon also noted that “a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” This notion is the basis for attention advertising.

Attention advertising looks to prioritize meaningful engagement over widespread consumption. It is a shift away from traditional ad performance markers like frequency and reach and a move towards finding ways to measure the attention given to the ads themselves. 

What is attention advertising?

Rather than relying solely on viewability, attention advertising demands businesses use attention-based targeting to get a more comprehensive picture of their target audience and how they consume media. 

In attention-based advertising, advertisers must consider not only who has seen their ad, but also how much of the ad was watched. They need to focus on engagement levels to assess how much of their work was meaningfully consumed. 

Attention-based advertising gives brands a better understanding of their target audience’s interests and preferences so they can build engagement and craft campaigns that are more likely to resonate and be remembered. 

Data and analytics still play a major role in this approach. Advertisers need to measure audience engagement in real time and use this data to both target ads and make adjustments during live campaigns. 

Does attention advertising work? 

Yes, attention advertising is an effective way to track and build engagement. If we do, in fact, live in an attention-based economy, finding ways to measure attention makes perfect sense. 

While viewership numbers are important, engagement is more important. What has a bigger impact – an ad seen 500 times, with no active engagement, or an ad shared or interacted with 50 times? Undoubtedly, engagement is more important than broad reach. 

On average, audiences see between 6,000 and 10,000 ads every single day. This volume of ads makes it impossible to pay attention or remember every single one. The human brain is only capable of processing so much information. That means that most of these ads are simply ignored. And of those that aren’t, many are quickly forgotten. 

Attention spans are a finite resource. With so many ads out there, it is important to stand out. This means prioritizing interesting and engaging ad creatives. Without a good creative, an ad will fade into obscurity and all the targeting in the world will be meaningless. 

U.K. think tank Credos found that viewer ad favorability reached a low of 25% in 2019. According to their research, audiences view ads poorly due to consumer privacy concerns in addition to finding them intrusive and their content irrelevant. 

Well-targeted ads are important for reaching the right audience, advertisers need to balance their targeting strategies with crucial privacy protection. Contextual targeting is one targeting technique that strikes this balance well. 

Another reason ads are losing favorability with audiences is that they are boring. Boring ads, even when relevant, push away audiences. Attention advertising helps ensure ad creatives engage audiences and build meaningful relationships. 

By ensuring ad content holds a viewer’s attention for longer, advertisers foster engagement and enhance brand recall. They also improve trust with the consumer. More attention to ads directly translates to more sales. 

Attention advertising is an effective way to build meaningful relationships with audiences and ensure ad creatives stand out in a crowded marketplace. Strong ad creatives and informed targeting are central to making this work. You can learn more about attention advertising in our guide.


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