Yet somehow the advertising industry developed the notion that it either A) does not need people’s attention, or B) can simply create more attention. Both assumptions are obviously ridiculous, but in order to keep passing money around, the industry seems to have just taken the ostrich-head-in-sand approach to the obvious absurdity.
There are many numbers out there that suggest people see vastly more ads than they used to a few decades ago. The estimates vary, suggesting that the average person sees 3,000 to 5,000 ads a day now. Some that aren’t even worth the time to cite claim even more. How can rational people believe these numbers? And even on the off chance that someone was at least in legitimate proximity to this many advertisements, how could we say all those ads got real attention? You know, attention -- that thing that is required for any kind of success in every corner of our entire industry?
That’s why stats are incredibly misleading, and show a big misunderstanding of the importance of attention. True, the number of ads that a human has the potential to be exposed to has definitely increased -- thanks to new media like digital, more TV commercials, and out-of-home. But that doesn’t expand the capacity of human attention, and it doesn’t change the hours in a day. And now we’re headed into Q4, when (as if by a holiday miracle!) the ad industry will be provided more “impressions” than in any other quarter.
Why? Because in Q4, people have more time to pay attention to ads? Nope. Because in Q4 there are 25 hours in a day? Nope. It’s more likely because in Q4, thanks to the impending holiday season, there is more money in advertising -- so the Internet will just create more impressions to try to get all that money.
The number of ads that people genuinely see hasn’t increased all that much over the past few decades. Because you aren’t really “seeing” an ad, or at least it makes no difference that you’ve seen it, if it doesn’t register a reaction. It doesn’t create engagement.
Which is kind of funny, because at events like the MOAT I/O Summit earlier this week, the concept of “attention” is top-of-mind -- as it should be. From the fact that we are stuffing websites full of as many ads as possible, to the growing glut of content that we’ll never make the time to watch (in spite of how good so much of it is), it’s as though we as an industry are challenging ourselves to make it as hard as possible to capture real human attention.
Why are we screwing up so badly? Attention is the currency of advertising and always has been. You’d think the industry would understand it better by now.