Research by the Irish National Lottery uncovered that its ads on Facebook were gaining on average less than two seconds of active attention from users.

We know the importance of getting people’s attention if we want them to buy our brand. When they are dreaming of a life-changing win, or they pop into their local shop to get some lunch, will our brand come to mind? Without attention, our advertising can have no impact.

Over the past year we have been trying to make our brand building advertising more effective by prioritising attention. The team had spent 2021 learning how to improve our chances of getting noticed and remembered. Our water slide and yellow inflatable ring visuals help us do that. As does spending more than we did previously on channels that tend to get more attention seconds. We no longer report on vanity metrics such as clicks, likes or shares.

This year we went a step further. We kicked off a piece of research with our partners at RED C, world leader in attention Professor Karen Nelson-Field and her measurement firm Amplified Intelligence. This research would measure how much real attention people pay to our ads. By ‘real attention’ we mean human Irish adult eyes on our ads rather than the data that the social media platforms were telling us.

What did we find out?

The following table shows Active Attention Seconds results from one of our ads, tested in-feed and in story formats where possible.


Active Attention Seconds

Difference to In The Wild ads













Finding 1: Most people didn’t watch more than 2.5 seconds of our ads –> beware the attention cut-off

It’s quite humbling to see how little people care about your ads after all the effort it takes to make them. Especially on Facebook in our case. We don’t believe that to be a reflection of the creative, but the reality of the platforms we’re advertising on. We knew from previous research by Amplified Intelligence across other markets that most ads weren’t getting over 2.5 seconds of attention. Our ads weren’t any different. If your ad is over 10 seconds in length you should be aware of the strong possibility of ad wastage. Longer ads do not guarantee more attention.

Finding 2: Attention to the same creative differed between platforms –> adjust your media plan by quality reach

One ad of ours was tested across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and they all had different amounts of attention. On Twitter our ad in-feed had more than double the amount of active attention seconds than on Facebook in-feed and a lot more passive attention. Knowing this, we’ll be adjusting our media plans to find a better balance between reach, frequency and an attention adjusted view of reach.

Finding 3: Attention sat between a range per platform –> Set your attention expectations

There are varying elasticities between the highest and lowest amount of attention each platform can provide. Our Facebook in-feed video ad was getting between one and two seconds of attention and it’s unlikely our ad would get more than three seconds of attention based on research that the Amplified Intelligence team have undertaken in other markets.

Finding 4: Attention boosts mental availability –> go for distinctiveness

Despite our aspirations, the reality is our social media advertising is, as Peter Field remarked, more likely “a gentle reinforcement of our distinctive brand assets”. If you decide to keep your ads under 10 seconds without any long story arcs, as we have done, you can lean on your distinctive brand assets to get your brand noticed. We do this deliberately big, early and often to refresh cues that the brand exists and can be remembered.

Our waterslide visual, which 94% of Irish adults in our market research can associate with the National Lottery when shown without any logos or taglines, is our winning ticket to distinctiveness. We are even thinking of using this from the very first second, as we’ve found on Facebook and Instagram for the ads we tested that viewers skip freely after the one second mark.

What next?

Now with a clearer picture of how scarce attention is, we’re looking to optimize our media plan and find a better balance between the reach and attention each platform can provide us with. Should our distinctive brand assets be used even earlier than we thought? Maybe we can do a better job of breaking the viewer’s prediction in the first second to keep them tuned in.

This was another reminder for us that as advertisers we haven’t been getting what we paid for in digital advertising. As more attention seconds boosts mental availability, a positive future would see advertisers put their media spend behind formats that have a much better chance of impacting longer term memories. After all, we are in the memory-making business.