When I started in advertising, the big issue of the day was whether a right hand page or a left garnered more attention (yes, I’m aware most of you have no idea what I’m talking about but it’s true). I even owned and operated a company called MAGtrack to prove out that the difference was minuscule. This made the company a bit of a one-trick pony and, as I discovered, made agencies sad because they had one less reason to justify a larger fee to their clients. It also made publishers unhappy because they had no basis to charge more for a right hand page. It was a zero sum game. I sold that company in 1998, which was one of my better decisions.
Now 25 years on, the ad market place is once again asking the question and looking for justification to buy ad space based on attention. It’s hardly a new idea, but it’s nice to hear the sound of the pendulum swooshing by as it swings hard back to attention being the metric of our day, again.
I, for one, am very pleased that attention is once again at the forefront of decision making in advertising. The digital ad marketplace, from the very start, declared that everything could be tracked, every action monitored and click counted. Not only was this not true at all, but the reality of fraud and our own pre-set algorithms to make things “safe” meant large swathes of audiences have been totally ignored. For a decade, with this knowledge in hand, everyone carried on as though it didn’t matter and was just a mere inconvenience.
Then Apple decided to make a change. They put the consumer’s wishes ahead of those who would use their data and tracked patterns of behavior, mostly without any type of consent. This has made some in the industry quite upset. In digital terms, there are just a few firms that take up almost 90% of all ad spend dollars. It’s unsurprising that these firms have seen significant downturns in the last few quarters. The IAB (Thece is a member, for full transparency), recently decried the political attention as extremist and radical behavior, an opinion we don’t agree with at all. Truthfully it’s long overdue. Given the ravages of social media on all our children and the appalling consequences that they will bring to all of us now and in the years to come, I believe change, enforced or otherwise, is a good thing.
So attention is back and what a relief. Let’s face it, advertising agencies have based buying on a desk, with all decisions made for the media buyers by their inherent systems, and it desperately needs a major overhaul.
Not long again, Marc Pritchard, CMO of P&G, said the audience he was seeking and which was most important, is the 50% of people his brands had never spoken to before. The old system set up with its algorithms and safe filters has meant a huge swathe of the populace never get exposed to brands. Using attention and a focus on reaching the previously untapped audience, brands should fare far better than reverting to the status quo and simply plugging in yet another buy off ‘the desk’. So pay attention to attention, it’s back.