Notes on The Rising Cost of Consumer Attention

These are my reading notes on the research paper, The Rising Cost of Consumer Attention: Why You Should Care, and What You Can Do about It , by Thales S. Teixeira.


  • 3 components to advertising: Ad content, attention, and persuasion.
  • 2 questions for advertisers: how to capture attention and how to convert attention.
  • Consumers control attention allocation. Marketers must understand what consumers are interested in learning or experiencing.
  • “Only after focusing on the consumer’s interests, thereby securing attention, should advertisers focus on their own persuasion-related goals.”
  • 2 ways to capture attention: pay for it or earn it.
  • Cost of buying attention is rising because demand is outpacing supply.
  • 2 dimensions to attention: intensity and duration. Attention intensity (quality) is difficult to measure.
  • Over last 20 years, percentage of TV ads viewed dropped from 97% to less than 20%.
  • Many reasons for decreased attention to ads. Clutter, distrust, short attention span, media proliferation. But these can’t explain the attention decrease in last 20 years.
  • 2 types of ad content that can provide value to viewers: information and entertainment.
  • Historically consumers watched ads to gather information to make better purchase decisions. The internet has changed that. “Webpages have, in effect, replaced the informative value of advertising.” Consumers no longer need ads for product information.
  • Modern advertising is left to focus on entertainment. Solution: Attention-Contingent Advertising Strategy.

Attention-Contingent Advertising

  • 4 steps:
    1. Define purpose of marketing communication. This will determine necessary quality of attention.
    2. Determine available quality of attention. If there’s a gap between necessary and available, increase spend budget. Otherwise performance burden falls on ad content.
    3. Choose appropriate strategy to match attention.
    4. Create content.
  • 4 attention contingencies:
    • Full attention: Use all attention; focus on persuasion. Use imagery.
    • Partial, mostly main screen: Don’t lose attention. Use action, emotion, product imagery.
    • Partial, mostly second screen: Compete for attention. Use entertainment.
    • Lack of attention: Gain attention. Use viral.
  • Option 1: Lean advertising to buy cheaper attention
    • 4 techniques: create content yourself; outsource content; distribute yourself; outsource distribution.
    • Lean has higher variability in success and potentially higher maintenance overhead, but potential savings are %50-90%.
  • Option 2: Create ads to work under low levels of attention
    • Research study with 4 types of television ads: (1) Direct response: product focus; (2) Direct response: action focus; (3) Brand image: imagery focused; (4) Brand image: emotion focused.
    • Among multitaskers, imagery-focused ads are least effective for driving online purchases.
    • Action-focused ads are best to drive multitaskers to website. “It turns out those ads that urge people to go online (versus those that do not) actually accomplish this to a great extent.”
    • “No single ad type can accomplish both tasks of increasing the number of visitations to the website and the number of purchases.”
    • Advertisers can benefit from the increasing trend of multitasking by creating more appropriate ads.
  • Option 3: Develop ads that increase level of attention
    • The more a viewer is entertained, the more likely they are to view the ad until the end.
    • More entertained viewers have higher intent to purchase, but only to a point. Eventually more entertainment led to fewer purchases. Excessive attention paid to entertainment compete with attention to brand message. “Earning attention always comes at a price.”
    • For ad sharing, personality of sender accounts for 34%. Extroverted people are more likely to share and more likely to share broadly. Same applies for self-directed people.
    • Majority of shared ad views came from someone with a high degree of self-interest.
    • The most-shared ads “used content that enabled the self-interested person to benefit personally and gain social capital from sharing.” Viral ads “boosted the sharer’s social status by allowing them to communicate their values to others, to foster a tribal relationship based on an inside joke, to be seen as someone with privileged access to good content, or even to show that they were the center of attention.”
    • Marketers should ask not “what do I want to achieve from the advertisement?” but “what can my consumers achieve if they share the advertisement?”
  • Advertising symbiosis: ad content that allows for mutual consumer-advertiser benefit.
  • Advertising effectiveness comparison of the three options: