We live in what could be called the Age of Distraction. According to Harvard Business School historian Nancy Koehn, our average attention span today is 8 seconds, down from 12 seconds over a decade ago. For comparison, a goldfish—yes, a goldfish—has a 9 second attention span.
Part of this comes from an increasingly complex digital landscape. The proliferation of devices and content conspire to drive consumers to distraction. As a result, many brands have turned to mastering the six second Vine video.
The problem with this approach is that it fails to consider context. Reach and frequency have long been the standard metrics in advertising, despite the fact that devices, platforms and content are not created equal.
YuMe, a multi-screen video advertising technology company, makes a good case that a better strategy for brands is to shift their marketing focus to understanding and harnessing attention to ensure they are reaching the right people at the right time.
In a survey and online virtual lab experiment in partnership with IPG Media Lab, YuMe collected feedback from over 7,000 respondents to illuminate what drives their attention and what influences their receptivity to advertising across multiple categories. Results seen in the infographic below show that while fragmentation is rampant, consumers are watching all forms of digital video content across all devices pretty much all the time.
The difference in a consumer's ability to focus on a message may have a lot to do with where she is when that message is served up. Contrary to conventional wisdom, reaching people at home on a TV isn't necessarily when they're the most attentive. In fact, a smartphone led to greater message recall—41 percent versus 39 percent for tablet and 37 percent for desktop.
Smartphones trump desktop computers for receptivity to ads, especially when the viewer is at school or work (sorry, boss). Overall, a highly attentive audience was shown to boost purchase intent by 23 percent and overall favorability by 14 percent.
This is good news for brands currently struggling with how to boil a message down to a tiny video spot. Succeeding as attention spans dwindle is more about optimizing around attentive audiences, not just by demographics or content genres. To learn more, check out the research in full.