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Attention Please

Attention Please

In an evolving media landscape, we explore what is happening to consumer attention

In Brief

The topic of attention has garnered a lot of attention in recent times; some say attention is in crisis. Combine this with the proliferation of technology able to measure our behaviour, we aren’t short of studies that measure attention. However, like many hot topics, much can be learned from existing theory and research.

We were interested in attention because:

a) instinctively it feels like an important criterion for effective advertising

b) we were curious how the changing nature of the media landscape was influencing attention

As a start point we were keen to get a comprehensive view of the available theory and evidence so that we had a solid foundation for any new research. We believe, whilst it’s important to acknowledge the seismic changes in the media landscape ushered in by the digital era, it’s also important to consider the enduring nature of human behaviour.

This whitepaper, prepared by Bournemouth University, is our attempt to pull together all the existing thinking on attention. It is the first phase of a long-term project. Our ambition with this programme of research is to shed new light on the topic of attention, unearthing useful insights and frameworks for advertisers and their agencies.

Key Findings

A new framework for attention was identified, grounded in existing theories. It acknowledges the following dynamics as important

  • Bottom up attention: system 1- intuitive, automatic, effortless, associated, fast, unconscious, often occurs when multi-tasking, stimulus driven
  • Top Down: system 2- controlled, effortful, deductive, slow, self-aware, usually solo focused attention, goal driven
  • Emotion processing: feeling-based processes, aroused by value expressive goals
  • Cognitive processing: information is processed rationally, aroused by utilitarian goals 

Implications for Advertisers

Different sectors, brands and advertising briefs will require different types of attention, understanding the nature of consumer attention and acknowledging which types of the attention your marketing challenge needs to work with are an important consideration for media channel selection.