Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Attention = the new commodity

Ahhhh…vacation. I took two days off before Memorial Day Weekend to give myself (and my family) a five-day weekend. We spent the time in the Black Hills of South Dakota, which is one of my favorite places in the world (pictured to the right). We spent time fishing, hiking and soaking up the sun well off the beaten path.

In addition to the rest and relaxation, I caught up on some reading—two books that are relevant to this blog: All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin and Life After the 30-Second Spot by Joseph Jaffe (many thanks to Joseph for supplying us with a copy). I’d been meaning to get to these books for a long time and this vacation supplied me the time to get to both.

With the proliferation of blogs, I’ve noticed myself spending less time with books. It just seems that by the time a book comes to print, everything included therein has probably been covered by the blogosphere. However, this particular vacation I was without an Internet connection and my Treo was out of range, so I was forced to read the old way…and was rewarded for doing so.

One thing that jumped off the pages of these two marketing texts was the importance of gaining the attention of the consumer. The cluttered media landscape (which is rendering the 30-second spot irrelevant) has led to the “attention economy” with time “the new currency” states Jaffe. Rather than ROI, we need to focus on the “consumer’s ROA: return on attention."

Godin calls attention “the unstated precious commodity” and tells marketers that they “can no longer force people to pay attention.” Both authors reference the effectiveness of “permission marketing,” the title of a previous Godin book, and Jaffe calls for the introduction of “permission advertising.” The permission is necessary because marketers waste the time of today’s time-pressed consumers at their own peril.

Both authors see attention gained in similar fashions. For Godin, attention is earned from the consumer by telling a compelling story that does not conflict with their worldview. Jaffe urges advertisers to get attention by crafting advertising that is real, relevant and beneficial to the consumer (hint: it’s tough to do that with a 30-second TV ad).

This is consistent with what our agency regularly discusses with our clients. In our view, the first job of good advertising is to stop the consumer and get them to pay attention. The consumer is not looking for your ad; in most cases they’re actively trying to avoid it. That’s why they signed up for the “Do Not Call List,” bought a DVR and installed Google pop-up blocker. An ad can’t convince its target to do anything if it doesn’t first get someone to pay attention and today that’s harder than ever to accomplish.

I’ll be blogging more about these two texts in the coming days (perhaps even review them), but I first wanted to highlight a theme or two that was present in both. Following all the vacation reading, I have a lot of thoughts to share with Fresh Glue readers.

Incidentally, public relations pros have joined advertisers in discussing the importance of consumer attention. In a presentation titled “Communicating on the Read-Write Web” by Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson, of For Immediate Release fame, attention is called “the scarcest resource.” The presentation is well worth the read.

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