How can brands get our attention these days?

Unsurprisingly, our network had a lot to say about this one...

Worldwide digital advertising spend is increasing every year, but ad blocking is also on the rise. So with our July theme of ‘Fame and Attention’ we thought we’d ask our network, from a marketing and strategic point of view, how should brands best capture our attention.

Wander Bruijel — Chief Strategy Officer at Born Ugly

Wander Bruijel

We see twice as many ads today than ten years ago. Whether this estimate is right doesn’t really matter. The reality is: we live in an intensely noisy world. To get people’s attention, idiot experts will say that you need to ‘go at the speed of culture’. What they mean is that brands should act quickly and responsively. As an anthropology student I know this to be utter bollocks. Culture is slow, deep and entrenched. But what these experts are suggesting is to be ephemeral, fleeting and devoid of meaning. The net cost of this approach is the dilution of your brand. People don’t think about your brand basically ever, only until they have to. To capture attention today requires what it has always done; understanding of your audience’s culture and a differentiated positioning, supported by a distinctive brand and brand assets that help to mentally anchor it in the right place at the right time. Give that a healthy dose of some creative punk, and bob’s your uncle.

Bex Berry — Growth Director at Golley Slater

Bex Berry

I think it is about capturing attention by telling human-led and emotive stories tailored to the right audience, at the right time, on the right channel. Brands should look to build communities around core values and social responsibility, but only when they have an authentic message to share. It’s important to embrace technology when it has a role to play for the brand or consumer — not just for the sake of it i.e. automation of creative assets for high volume asset delivery or virtual reality experiences in the live environment. Finally, I think it’s important for brands to build their teams and organisational culture around staying responsive to trends, using insights to adapt strategies, ensuring they continue to remain relevant.

Oliver Kerr-D’Souza — Client Executive at Wake the Bear

Oliver Kerr-D’Souza

Marketers are keen to win attention, consumers are keen to guard it, installing ad blockers and taking digital detoxes and being generally wary. For marketers keen to get our attention, in this climate, what matters most could be context. By delivering personalised and relevant content based on consumers’ interests, behaviours, location, time of day, and device usage, interactions become more meaningful and relevant, ultimately driving better engagement and conversion rates. Evidence suggests contextual advertising, using AI to place relevant ads without cookies, proves effective in capturing viewer attention and boosting engagement. A study by Lumen and Seedtag showed that contextual ads attract significantly more attention and engagement than traditional formats, with higher view times and increased sales conversions. Contextual marketing will be the only way to capture and retain the attention of the ‘Impulse Generation’, who expect fast, engaging, and relevant content amidst their busy, distraction-filled lives.

Layla Soufi — Regional Partnerships Director, DSPs, EMEA at VIOOH

Layla Soufi

Holding consumer attention is more challenging than ever with the average attention span having dwindled from seven seconds to a mere three seconds and dual-screening becoming the norm. High-impact platforms work best like programmatic digital out-of-home (prDOOH) advertising. These ads are unskippable and placed in high-traffic areas, making them unavoidable and memorable. The ‘fame effect’ also plays a significant role. Celebrities and brands often showcase on impressive billboards over mobile or TV ads, which underscores the unique impact of DOOH. Ultimately, it’s about understanding your audience and keeping it simple. Overcomplicating it can run the risk of losing attention when every person is a person. Keep it simple and targeted and you will get the right results. Tailoring your message to resonate with specific demographics and leveraging the right platforms at the right times will ensure your brand stands out in today’s fragmented media landscape.

Ben Foster — Chief Digital Officer at The Kite Factory

Ben Foster

Gaining cut through and therefore attention of potential customers is harder than ever but the established principles of successful marketing haven’t changed. Firstly, create content not ads and make that content innovative. So much content is bland, generic, and middle of the road. Such beige assets become wallpaper lost in the noise. Secondly, make the message relevant to the target audience; quite frankly, why should they care? Relatable messaging boosts ad recall that filters all the way down the funnel to sales. Lastly, utilise the media platform and the unique opportunities it presents. Pushing the same execution across all channels might build frequency but it’s boring and forgettable. Impacts and impressions aren’t enough — a truly integrated campaign amplifies every element and gains all important excess share of voice.

Anton Jerges — CEO and Founder of We Are Collider

Anton Jerges

Ofcom says we check our phones on average every 12 minutes. We’re bombarded daily with between 4,000 and 10,000 messages. We tap our screens 2617 times a day. So getting attention is a battle, but the answer lies in experiences. Dentsu’s survey shows 79% of CMOs believe brands need to entertain, not interrupt. Being entertained is an innate psychological human need. It gives us escapism, emotional catharsis, connection and social bonding. It also drives intellectual stimulation, sense of identity and self expression. But 58% of CMOs realise this can’t be done through ‘traditional’ advertising alone, which is why 87% are turning to brand experiences. Experiences allow sensory immersion, storytelling, co-creation, sociality and value exchange; qualities that are harder to drive in more traditional channels. No wonder the latest Bellwether Report noted that experiential marketing is likely to see an 18.7% increase in spend in 24/25.

Heather Stewart — Insight Strategist at Household

Heather Stewart

In a world where digitally savvy customers can spot a sponsored ad from a mile away, and impulse control is fast becoming as exercised as the muscles in the thumb we scroll with, brands can grab our attention by using experiential IRL retail to cut through the noise enough, so that a real conversation with its customer can be heard. However tempting the idea of mimicking the breakneck pace of digital may be, with brands often promising to match its convenience through in-store AI and automation, what customers really crave are physical spaces that connect them to a brand on a deeper level. Whether stepping into a flagship or sitting at a pop-up café, customers have already given what a fleeting glance at their for-you page cannot: minutes of their undivided attention and a willingness to get to know a brand better. If done right, with values communicated and human interaction spotlighted, their attention won’t have to be bid for in the future, it’ll have been secured alongside their trust, loyalty and fandom.

Craig Miles — Creative Director at SuperHeroes Amsterdam

Craig Miles

Stop selling products, start selling feelings and solutions instead. Think about how Coca-Cola sells happiness, not just soda, and Apple sells the solution to creativity, not just tech. Aim to grab attention by being relatable and telling engaging, culturally aware, human-centered stories. Ditch the boring ads. Use creativity to stop thumbs, turn heads, and captivate minds. Remember, consumers don’t hate ads — they hate dull ones. They want to be entertained, not bored with irrelevant or monotonous messages. So let’s focus on creating fresh, relevant, and compelling content that stands out and earns the audience’s interest remembering that there are over 500 hours of content uploaded to Youtube alone every minute. So keep asking yourself, will this stand out?

Peter Wilson — Executive Strategy Director at Iris

Peter Wilson

The problem isn’t just people finding more ways to avoid digital advertising — the spiralling cost of paid advertising is making it prohibitively expensive for many brands to advertise predominantly via paid media. The good news is that the way ideas travel has changed. We’ve always known, deep down, that brands don’t influence people — people influence people. This is even more true today; because owned and earned media is more powerful than ever before. This means we should prioritise creating ideas that connect with communities, participating in the places and subjects they care about. If we can make a positive contribution to the culture of those communities, we stand a much stronger chance they will participate in return, sharing our message through their own channels and social networks. The most powerful brands of tomorrow will be built with people, not for people.

Jenny Stanley — Managing Director at Appetite Creative

Jenny Stanley

To grab attention in today’s crowded market, brands should leverage the power of connected packaging. Brands can cut through the noise and create memorable, interactive experiences that resonate with consumers in ways traditional advertising cannot. Connected packaging allows brands to turn their products into owned media channels, creating direct, meaningful, and measurable engagements with consumers. It’s not just about getting attention; it’s about creating value-added experiences that enhance the product, educate the consumer, and build brand loyalty. By integrating QR codes, NFC tags, or augmented reality (AR), brands create interactive experiences that blend the physical and digital worlds. Valuable digital content, such as product information, recipes, or promotions enhance the product experience. Gamification, like challenges accessed through packaging, boosts engagement. Connected packaging also supports brand storytelling, transparency, and consumer involvement in recycling, fostering education and loyalty. It also gathers data on consumer preferences for tailored campaigns and ongoing post-purchase engagement.

David Juul Ledstrup — Strategy Director at Kubbco 

David Juul Ledstrup

In an age of digital overload, where the vast majority of ads are ignored at best and consciously skipped at worst, the basics of advertising have never been more important. Emotional storytelling based on human insights, crafted to grab positive attention and change behaviors, is (still) the way forward. Sometimes as advertisers, we just get blinded by the new and shiny objects – be it platforms, new technology or media placements and vanity metrics that seldom seem to make a real business impact. With the wave of generative AI content rolling in, it’s only going to get worse. It’s going to be easy to create mediocre work. Brands need to truly grab their audiences attention by demanding better work from themselves and their agencies.

Anna Cremin — Head of Research and Consumer Insight at Pearl & Dean

Anna Cremin

Brands can engage audiences by crafting advertising experiences that transport people from daily life, in order to leave a truly lasting impression. Cinema itself is an experience, and brands have the perfect opportunity to use this space to grab attention. A recent study at Pearl & Dean showed that cinema advertising significantly outperforms other media in terms of memory retention and personal engagement. Consuming ads in the cinema evokes 9% more detailed memory and 18% greater personal relevance, which shows their unique potential to grab audience’s attention. A further way for brands to leverage attention is to use the alchemy of a perfect experiential brand partnership. Rooftop Film Club recently partnered with British Airways to deliver an outdoor cinema in the sky. The collaboration elevated BA’s brand presence and ensured that the Rooftop Film Club stood out (far above the clouds!) as they provided a spectacular in-flight experience complete with cabin crew, refreshments and blankets to keep cosy. When brands engage audiences by creating unique experiences like this, it gives consumers something unforgettable.

Tom Bellamy — Executive Creative Director at SocialChain

Tom Bellamy

When your audience are second screening, scrolling somewhere close to 80mph, getting people to stop and take notice has never been harder. Crucially, social media marketers need to look at their content from the audience’s perspective — stand in their shoes and see the world through their eyes. People have an infinite selection of content to choose from, nestled on a 6” screen in their pocket. They can transport themselves anywhere on the planet (and beyond), and watch pretty much any series that has ever existed.
Why should they watch your ad? I’d go as far as to say this makes Social the most challenging place to work in marketing today… maybe ever. To grab attention, you have to know your audience — what they want and when they want to see it. Live in their world and speak their language. Then ask yourself, what would I want to watch?

Jack Colchester — Director of Data Strategy at Wonderhood Studios

Jack Colchester

There are two ways of getting people’s attention: you either buy it or you earn it. Buy people’s attention with paid ads, each channel will have its own best practices — ruthlessly adhere to them. Fill them with distinctive assets and compelling proof points. Blast them out on as many channels as you can afford. But, for the bold, leave space for earning people’s attention. Earning people’s attention is not for the faint-hearted, you are competing with the rest of the internet — you must stop acting like a stamp collector and start thinking like an attention seeker. No nice, neat strategic pillars and consensual, please-all creative. Non-traditional ideas that drive disproportionate levels of talkability. I believe that brands will increasingly try and both buy and earn people’s attention in a two-speed approach to marketing. Nail the function, elevate the extraordinary.

Maor Ofek — Founder at SIDE ST

Maor Ofek

With the rise of generative tools and off-the-shelf creative assets, everything is becoming full of fluff these days. As brands try to keep pace with this ever-growing information overload, they create for the sake of creating and forget that true long-term impact can only be achieved by simply being straightforward. Even in a busy market, getting attention doesn’t need to equate to using over-the-top tactics in order to appeal. In fact, brands can take advantage of their competitors’ overbearing approach by adopting the opposite. Your potential customers will appreciate it. Focus on communicating clear messages which deliver real value, while customising each communication to fit different channels, from offline to online. In a world of noise, authenticity stands out.

Featured image: Monstera Productions / Pexels