All Eyes Are on AI’s Role in the Attention Economy
I’m no fan of marketing buzzwords, so when the ‘Attention Economy’ blipped on my radar I could easily have ignored it. Terms like this often strike me as someone’s way of justifying their role or inflating its importance.
Scratch away at the flimsy label, though, and there’s actually plenty going on here to make you look again.
What the attention economy is really about harking back to one of the oldest rules of marketing which has stayed with me during three decades in the discipline. You have just five seconds to engage your customer, and if you don’t succeed the chance is likely gone for good.
So, if this concept has been around since the dawn of advertising, why’s it rising up the marketing agenda now?
The fact is, with the pace of comms reaching new warp speeds – something awful like 200 million items of content are produced every minute, with an individual hit by 4,000 messages a day – creative clarity and cut-through counts as never before.
So far, so obvious.
But chuck in the startling claim that consumer attention predicts outcomes three times better than viewability and that’s where things get interesting. If this is true, the scramble is on to understand how to peel open their eyelids and pin back their ears.
That means being snackable and omnichannel, using delicate insight into on- and offline behaviors to create relevance and personalization; all without breaching the privacy line.
This is, as they say in military circles, something of a minefield. After a score or more years of the interweb, we’re all to some degree native digital scientists, curating our digital presence and choosing the content we’re prepared to entertain.
But I have some good news. AI can now be used to predict not just whether someone is going to see your precious brand messaging, but also in what sequence they’ll digest it.
If you think that sounds a bit beyond the horizon of current approaches to insight, let me list the four types of predicted metrics built into such a platform that boost marketing’s coherence and impact:
- Local attention scores – what consumers will see first – alongside a digestibility index to explain how comprehensible your fiendishly clever piece of collateral is
- Regional analysis – the probability of perception – showing how blocks of content score in terms of their share of audience interest
- Share of attention – distribution by % across all your content – with evidence that a 1% improvement in this factor on a critical call-to-action can bring up to 6% in clickthrough’s
- ‘Gazepath’ sequencing – telling you what, and in what order, your content will be seen
I’d contend this is the smartest that insight has ever been.
If you’re thinking, “You would say that”, consider the conundrums that crumble in the face of this AI-driven onslaught.
The greatest limitation to our understanding of human attention is the idea that we all behave in the same way. Humanity is notoriously hard to predict and we are still a hugely complex society of many dimensions.
We’re still some way from the ‘herd AI’ that I believe would reveal startling insights and alarming extremes in human thinking. But what we do have is as unique as it is precise.
Using the actual mathematical formula in our brains shows us how the brain sequences what we see in terms of both context and content: it reveals what we see before we actually start thinking about it.
Now, have I got your attention?
With the ability to predict the response of the subconscious mind, brands taking advantage of the technology are gaining an unfair advantage on those being left behind. A true take on consumer attention that can be applied to successful campaigns.
Of course, there’s always resistance to change – the black arts of AI, and all that. But another benefit of this approach to understanding the attention economy is that it removes bias and subjectivity from the creative process, leaving you with a clear, leveled view of content and how it is predicted to perform.
No wonder brands are sitting up and taking notice of this insight revolution. What’s more, teams get trained to use the platform, with basic operations implemented inside a few hours giving them control over inputs and outcomes.
This isn’t about blinding marketing departments or their target consumers with science. But it might just be the biggest advance to date in the ongoing quest for truly meaningful marketing effectiveness.
Or, to put it another way, while quoting the great TS Eliot, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we began and to know the place for the first time.”
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