Attention is a reward, not a right

October 3, 2017
Industry News
Content Provided By:

Creative Development Practice Lead, Kantar Millward Brown Hong Kong
[email protected]

The need for mastering the fine art of storytelling has never been more important. Brands today have to earn their attention by crafting compelling stories. No longer can they take their audiences for granted.

Marketers love their video advertising and no doubt video can be very powerful. The proliferation of digital media has also increased the number of broadcasting avenues. This however comes with increased complexity. Research conducted by Kantar Millward Brown has shown that transference from TV to Pre-roll and Mobile is no higher than a coin toss. This has a very important implication for brand owners - what works on TV doesn’t necessarily work online. They can’t guarantee success with a one size fits all mantra.

Success in the digital space depends on understanding receptivity and creativity.

To begin with, marketers need to relinquish control. Forcing viewers to watch their ads online by buying unskippable formats risks alienation. Kantar Millward Brown’s AdReaction: Gen X, Y, Z study found that the majority of people in Hong Kong had a negative attitude toward auto-play and unskippable ads. Viewers of digital video can simply turn their attention elsewhere until their hostility to advertising grows to the point where they load an ad blocker.

Databases and behavioral proxies can help target the right audience but they give little indication of a person’s mindset at a specific point in time. Receptivity is a huge challenge.

Creativity is the only way to beat the skip. Brands must either work within the five-second window or keep as many people watching as possible. Either strategy can be effective but both require brands working with people’s brains not against them. Personally relevant stories, real insight, single minded messaging, intrigue and emotional resonance all play into making a lasting impression.

Take for example, Geico’s ‘Unskippable’ campaign. When tested on Facebook people found the ad highly enjoyable, very distinctive and brand focused. It was simple idea which used intrigue to keep audiences glued to their screen. Most importantly, the ad was designed specifically for the online medium. When tested for TV, the ad failed to elicit the same response.

Other good examples include, Volvo’s ‘The Epic Split’ with Jean-Claude Van Damme , Skittles ‘Portrait’ with Steven Tyler and John Lewis’s ‘Buster the Boxer’. These ads told a story that evoked a positive emotional response. These are the videos that people wanted to watch, seek out and share.

In contrast, Old Spice’s 5 second ad, ‘Sweat’ demonstrated that it can be challenging to make an impression. While image of the deodorant stick shoved into an armpit no doubt caught people’s attention the reaction was far from positive. Facial coding (System 1 response) suggested little engagement and people were more likely to describe the ad as irritating, unpleasant and disturbing.

The uncomfortable truth for brand managers and advertisers is that people don’t care about brands or ads, so their brains filter them out. Ads which engage people creatively and emotionally tend to work better because they’re working with the brain, not against it.

Unliever CMO, Keith Weed sums it up quite nicely with this quote “In today’s intensely cluttered world, breaking through has become ever more important. We need great content to do this, content that is mobile-first, in the context, in the culture, in real time.”
About Kantar MillwardBrown
Kantar Millward Brown is a leading global research agency specialising in advertising effectiveness, strategic communication, media and digital, and brand equity research. The company helps clients grow great brands through comprehensive research-based qualitative and quantitative solutions. Kantar Millward Brown operates in more than 55 countries and is part of WPP’s Kantar group, one of the world’s leading data, insight and consultancy companies. Learn more at