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Defeating Non-Attention

 

Don MacNeil is the former Marketing Director of Windsor Jewelers and long-time on-air radio professional.

 

Is it just me, or…

Defeating Non-Attention

Marketing lore has it that esteemed advertising smart guy Ron Marshall once ran a crazy experiment to find out how many ads he was exposed to during a typical day. He decided to spot as many commercials as possible and tabulate them in a 24-hour period. By lunch he was at 487 and, amazed, decided not to continue.

Volumes have been written decrying the daily onslaught of ads we endure, but that’s not what we’re about this time. No, this is more a nag at how so many of the commercials we view have become so cutting edge they ultimately fail to tie together what we’ve just seen and so fail in their primary mission.

I’m not certain how typical I am, but I’ve found that in the rare instance a commercial actually grabs my interest I tend to not realize that until the final 5 to 10 seconds, at which point I’m counting on that brief ending time to give me what I need to investigate further. This is where lately, especially in the slick, major brand spots, being seen as cool overrides the need to impart information that sticks.

Apple has produced high budget, 3-minute videos promoting their iPhone 13 Pro, with :30 and :60 versions, all giving you no more than a 1 second appearance of a logo at the end. Ditto for Microsoft’s Windows 11 introduction. This year’s definition of “cool”, you see, is appearing to be blasé’ about pushing the brand.

This is mostly traceable to video producers’ sharing of a common trait…a terror of being seen as passé’. To that end they will, as many professionals do, prioritize impressing each other with edgy output over whether the spot is actually effective.

Couple that with the ad agency’s impulse to go high concept (again, for the applause of their colleagues, though they tell themselves it makes the commercial more impactful) and you have a recipe for Mr. and Mrs. America’s sitting in front of a screen wondering what just happened.

In football, “hang time” is the measurement of how long a punt hangs in the air after kicked, allowing the kicking team to get down the field with an eye toward preventing a runback. In commercials it’s the number of seconds vital contact information is exposed to the viewer in text form, usually at the spot’s end.

How boringly conventional. How vital.

Because the human brain cannot absorb so much information, our daily super saturation of commercials results in a phenomenon known as ad blindness. Essentially, most of us have learned to ignore the messages swirling around us.

So, your takeaway this week needs to be the designing of your ads with all of this in mind. So many commercials today are the result of the client and ad agency’s certainty that the world is hanging on every word of their brilliant spot, when the truth is just the opposite.

You have to write as if no one is paying attention. You have to repeat things. You have to have third parties confirm an understanding of your message before you turn it loose. YOU know what you mean. Do we?

Identify the most important information necessary to convert a viewer into a customer, and then hammer it home, especially in the commercial’s final few seconds.

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