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How to engage audiences in the attention economy

How to engage audiences in the attention economy

Ad placement, creative and targeting all have a considerable effect on the performance of ads. Here’s how marketers can optimise them.

All advertising needs attention, but it’s hard to attract it, particularly at the moment. On the one hand, the current global situation means that more people are spending time at home, actively looking to be entertained and engaged. Global online content consumption doubled in 2020. With many people still at home, that trend seems likely to continue in 2021.

Everywhere from inboxes to web pages to newsfeeds, consumers are saturated by information. Social media platforms and online outlets compete aggressively to capture and retain users’ limited attention, and stop them from leaving their so-called ‘walled gardens’.

Consequently, the attention consumers have to dedicate to content – and their interest in that content – is waning. With consumers actively choosing where to put their focus, we find ourselves in what some experts call the age of the ‘attention economy’.

For brands and organisations, this presents a new challenge: getting and retaining the right kind of attention from sceptical and oversaturated consumers. Here are some approaches we’ve found effective.

Grabbing attention is not just a matter of what you create, but where you place it, and what’s happening in consumers’ minds at the time.

An IAB study shows that one of the most successful ways to ensure your ads are grabbing attention is to surround those ads with quality content. For example, an ad is likely to get more attention on a premium news or magazine site than a task site like Rightmove or National Rail. This is a result of both the trust that the publisher’s reputation passes on to the ads appearing on its site, and the fact that the ads are not as interruptive.

Taboola’s research with Nielsen found that creatives which appear when consumers are waiting for something to happen, where they expect to get new information, or where they have just finished an article, are more effective. We call this ‘moments of next’, and ads presented in this context have been shown to capture 25% more attention than the same ad presented in a more interruptive environment.

When building creatives, the goal is to get beyond simple views to true engagement, so consumers will remember your brand. To figure out what consumers are likely to pay attention to in the future, we can rely on data that shows what they are already paying attention to as a starting point for new creatives.

Taboola’s Trends tool analyses clicks across all the impressions across the Taboola platform each week to tell you what consumers are responding well to.

When creating video content, for example, you can examine trends for types of illustrations, the use of text on screen, and even the type of weather shown to build videos that consumers are more likely to watch through.

Videos showing people driving, for example, have a higher completion rate than those showing people swimming or travelling by plane. This may differ, however, in specific markets or verticals, or may change over time, so it’s important to stay up-to-date with current trends in your market.

For example, black-and-white images outperform colour in the UK, but in Canada the opposite is true.