6 min read

Admit you have a problem

Hi, my name is Susan and I’m a marketeer


“…the problem is you. What you gonna do?” – Johnny Rotten

The quest of ADRVLT is to discover some sort of success formula for branding. In order to do that we need to start by admitting we have a problem. And believe me, there’s a lot to tell about that, but I’ll try to keep it short. We all have other things to do, right?

And that’s exactly the challenge I’d like to begin with: we have less attention because of our growing media consumption. You’ve all probably read one of these articles, that said the average attention span of humans is down from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to eight seconds now. Which is less than the nine-second attention span of your average goldfish. However, as you can read in this BBC article, there is no record of research that backs up this statement. Many experts even say the statement is plain wrong. Even more ironically: there’s also no proof that goldfish have a nine-second attention span.

However it is a fact that media consumption is on the rise. Year-on-year. According to IPA, in 2018 British adults are consuming 8 hours and 11 minutes of media (television, radio, social networking/messaging, internet, cinema and more) per day. A 3% increase year-on-year and 17% increase from 2005. In May of this year GroupM tabulated consumers’ time spent with each media format, globally, and calculated average time spent with media overall. They predicted that in 2018, consumers will spend an average 9.73 hours with media, up from 9.68 hours in 2017.

So where does this enormous 19% difference between the two come from? Is it that the UK population consumes less media than the global population? Or has GroupM taken into account other media than IPA? I think the answer partly lies in the fact that IPA uses a representative sample whereas the GroupM figures are weighted by media investment. In other words: they measure the amount of advertising we serve to predict media consumption.

I’m not writing a scientific paper here, but here’s what I think: we serve too much ads. More than people can handle in the time we consume media. People like to watch funny Instagram Stories, helpful YouTube videos and bingewatch Netflix shows. And thanks to algorithms, autoplay and features like Snapstreaks we can’t help but keep watching and posting. So we ignore the things that interrupt the content we like: ads. Especially shitty ads!

And that’s our problem! Not that people have a shorter attention span, but they just don’t have enough attention for us marketeers, serving them shitty ads.

Also shown by this graph from Wavemaker, in which you see impressions are rising faster than the attention to view them:

And there are other signs pointing towards the aversion for bad ads. The introduction of GDPR (consumers don’t want their data to be used by advertisers), the rise of adblockers (people want to control their internet experience) and tech giants such as Google and Facebook punishing bad ads. The latter should be viewed with a little scepticism though, since most things they do is in their own best interest, not the consumers’.

So today consumers have more power and expect a lot more of brands. Thanks to the 24/7 availability of information on the internet through smartphones and disruptive brands – such as Netflix, HelloFresh, and Casper – offering clever alternatives for big established brands. And it’s not that they don’t want to see ads at all, but they have very high expectations of those as well. Especially younger generations. According to research by Vidmob, 55% of GenZ and millennials indicate they rather see ads with a similar style/taste and 41% of GenZ (vs 31% of millennials) feels more positive towards ads that are visually beautiful. Moreover, Gen Z dislikes overly repetitive ads: 44% say it annoys them; 28% say they tune out.

A problem, but also a big opportunity for brands: offer consumers great experiences they actually like. Stop focussing on the short term only. On sales, promotions and vanity metrics such as impressions, likes, and clicks. Start thinking of long term branding as well. To drive growth and profit. Because you’ll need both, and you can offer a great experience with both.

When looking at digital advertising we mostly see ads with a promotion or a call to action to buy something. Often targeted badly as well. On the flip side we are served a lot of branded content. Unfortunately often hardly linked to the brand, not taking into account the time and place it’s served on, or simply miles away from what the brand communicates in other placements. But more on that in a separate article.

So it starts with good branding: build the right associations which distinguishes your brand from the others. Move beyond rational persuasion and argument, and make use of the fact that most thinking is done on autopilot. People use their intuition, made up of mental associations. And be patient with building these. As you could see in the graph above: branding takes time. And it requires a unique and consistent brand voice in all touchpoints.

This is not an easy thing to do. Especially in the digital age. And that’s why many of us fail. With the shift to digital, things got a whole lot more complex. More channels and hard to prove brand effects resulted in a lot of stress for marketeers and a focus on short term results. But by reading this article you at least made a good start: admitting there is a problem. Now let’s fix it!

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But how? In the next articles we will, among other things, discuss how to build your brand in the age of 2-second ads, have the ultimate face-off between Byron Sharp and Simon Sinek, explain why your brand can’t become the new Netflix and why culture is important when building brands. We’ll also discuss topics like the effect of conversational on your branding and the opportunities (and pitfalls) of technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Augmented Reality (AR).

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