Gary Vaynerchuk Argues That Marketers Are Fighting an Attention War

They know they're spending money in the wrong places

Have you seen The Big Short? Gary Vaynerchuk has and he believes what it depicts within in the financial sector—that the numbers, measurements and predictions were flat wrong and no one cared—is infiltrating the ad world.

"This is what's happening in the advertising industry, and I'm the guy with the weird fucking eye," said Vaynerchuk, referring to the character Christian Bale portrayed while speaking at the National Advertisers Masters of Marketing Annual Conference in Orlando. "Everybody knows!" 

The problem, Vaynerchuk posited, is marketers are in the midst of an attention war—they are spending their dollars in the wrong places and they know it. When consumers aren't watching appointment television, or if they are, they're looking at their phones during commercial breaks. It doesn't make sense to spend the bulk of your marketing budget executing a beautiful 30-second spot.

Vaynerchuk argued that the smartphone is the new television and marketers need to be where consumers are actually paying attention. What's happening with television is exactly what happened to the radio with the invention of the television, according to Vaynerchuk.

"Attention is in different places now," said Vaynerchuk. "I could care less if Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat exist tomorrow. I care about where your attention is. … If you're a brand that makes a TV commercial for your audience that's 22 and under, you're a fuck-face." 

Revamping where your brand is can make a big difference. While working for Sour Patch Kids, Vaynerchuk found the brand grew 60 percent when it began running ads and filters on Snapchat instead of 30-second spots on SpikeTV. 

That doesn't mean marketers need to go all-in on Snapchat; instead, they have to consider when and where people are actually paying attention to ads. With that in mind, Vaynerchuk believes "the No. 1 under-priced ad is the Super Bowl because everyone watches it."

What needs to change when it comes to Super Bowl ads is "the creative has so much vested interest in being a showcase for agencies," said Vaynerchuk. Instead, the creative focus should be about figuring out a way to get all those eyeballs to do something and turn it into a major data collection event for brands.