Hayley Cochrane: Stop blaming creatives for the attention issue

It’s time we confronted the root of the problem – the ad format – and explored new ways of serving up brand stories.

By Hayley Cochrane, global chief business officer, WeAre8

Last year’s alarming headline from the queen of attention, Dr. Karen Nelson Field, says it all: “85% of 130,000 digital ad views didn’t achieve the 2.5 seconds or more of active attention necessary to impact brand memories.”

It’s a headline that hits home, illustrating just how challenging it is to capture people’s attention. This often leads to conversations between clients and agencies that put creatives in the hot seat: “You need to get better at short form,” “Hit them hard with our branding in the first frame,” or, “It’s social media’s fault; people just don’t have the mental capacity anymore.”

While some of this may be true, when we’re talking about only 2.5 seconds, have we let the creatives bear the blame for too long? It’s time we confronted the root of the problem – the ad format – and explored new ways of serving up brand stories.

At WeAre8, for example, we found that connections between people and brands has little to do with the length of the creative and more to do with the way it’s being served.

Active engagement over passive consumption = I feel valued by brands

The digital ecosystem serves up approximately 10,000 ad units per user every single day, some highly relevant, many not so, all pretty much forced upon you and vying for your attention while you scroll, click, and watch.

Imagine if you invited people to come and watch and valued them for their time instead? WeAre8’s value exchange – opt in, a micropayment shared with people and a charity every time they watch – ensures a brand gets people’s full attention. We don’t just pay someone for every ad view but also give a guaranteed donation to charity and climate change too. People can also do the same with the money they earn, rather than keep it for themselves, which we see 54% of people do.

In a world that has become obsessed with 1:1 entertainment on mobile devices, we believe this is the secret to heightened levels of attention, by making people feel part of something bigger.

Active, opt-in engagement is far more valuable than passive exposure to advertising.

From Costa, to John Lewis, Boots, Virgin, Citroen, and many more, the results are astounding, and we aren’t just talking about short-form 6-second ads; we are seeing results for brands placing cinematic storytelling up to two minutes long, achieving a 100% view-through rate, an average CTR of 5%, and brand recall and awareness well above industry norms.

This isn’t too good to be true, it’s a formula for how advertising should have always been done. It puts the value back with the people, something we forgot long ago when building the digital world.

A recent study by GWI in partnership with WeAre8 explored this, and the halo affect it has on brands: 65% of respondents said they felt more positive about brands advertising on social media platforms that have a positive impact on the community, with 64% quoting they are more attuned to advertising on platforms where they feel heard and can provide feedback.

The Future of attention is value-driven

Capturing people’s attention is not just about serving up the best creative, being the loudest, or most visible. It’s about redefining how brands show up and creating a value exchange.

It’s time we stop putting the blame on creativity and start exploring new ways of serving up incredible brand stories.

Top image: Hayley Cochrane

To Top