Australia is at the forefront of attention research. In this Spotlight Australia series, WARC Asia Editor Rica Facundo speaks to experts about how to evolve the industry’s understanding of the attention economy and what marketers Down Under are doing to fight for the consumer’s undivided attention.

This article is part of a Spotlight series on the New Attention Economy in Australia. Read more

The digital playing field has changed the game with attention becoming a critical currency for brands who want to win over customers. But the way that marketers fight, measure and optimise for attention is being constantly challenged by a changing media ecosystem, consumer consumption behaviours and new research on effective advertising.

According to Mi3Australia and global execs at a US-based B2B institute, Australia leads the way in marketing thinking, especially in areas of attention research. Recently, leading marketing scientists in the ANZ region sparked debate about the need to evolve our understanding and application of attention metrics.

It makes for a timely topic for this Spotlight Australia edition - to not only celebrate the local thought leaders who are pushing the needle but provide the evidence and provocations to enable the attention economy to mature.

Our experts explore the attention economy not just through the lens of media planning and measurement but how it trickles down to other facets of marketing. From customer experience to retail and emerging “attention frontiers” of audio and gaming in Australia, there are more tools that Aussie marketers can use in their fight for attention.

The ‘pre-attention’ challenge: Digital fatigue and ‘digital detox’

Before we discuss attention, we must acknowledge a growing problem that prevents advertising from even having a fighting chance. Forget grabbing attention if consumers are taking active steps not to even gaze in your brand’s direction.

According to our GWI report for this series, one-third of Australians self-regulate overexposure to adverts and screens. Younger Australians are also conscious of how much time they spend online, with 23% taking active steps to do a digital detox.

In his article, Twilio’s Kristen Pimpini argues how attention is a limited and finite resource. “With Australians spending more and more time on digital devices – an average 5.5 hours per day just on their phone – that limit is being reached much faster,” he says. “The only way to avoid digital fatigue and enhance engagement is to offer fewer – not more – interactions that are highly targeted.”

Attention and customer experience go hand-in-hand

So you have captured a consumer’s attention - now what? What good is this when a bad brand experience can become future barriers to capturing and then retaining their attention and wallet next time.

Accenture’s Kelly Brough writes about the attention economy from the perspective of building retail experiences, noting that the top two reasons for consumers in the Australian market to stop shopping with a brand are poor customer experience and losing trust in the brand.

The key to preventing this? Data. “It would go on to become an essential ingredient to both capturing consumer attention and informing brands on how to deliver better customer experiences.”

But marketers must also consider how this customer experience lives and breathes on omnichannel.

Yahoo’s Zoe Cocker writes that “the channels we utilise today all have their own limitations”.

“Physical stores have restrictions on proximity and online stores have limitations around trying on and connecting with products in a tangible fashion.” In her article, she provides examples of how local Aussie brands leverage technology to create immersive shopping experiences that push the limits of attention.

Aussies trust ads in Australia’s new attention frontiers - but with a caveat

While the digital landscape is getting more fragmented, there are two channels that are not only growing among Aussies but are currently trusted frontiers ripe with attention.

Acast’s Tom Roach makes a case for podcasting in Australia. Based on their research, 40% of the Australian population are now listening to podcasts (up from 25% in 2020). The company discovered that podcasts are not only a growing behaviour among Aussies but is also a highly trusted advertising advertisement with listeners two times more likely to trust ads in the podcast environment (17%) when compared to other audio formats.

InMobi’s Richard O’Sullivan also writes about another trusted advertising channel. “There are over 15.5 million mobile gamers in Australia (almost half the population) aged 18-80 who are engaged and highly receptive to advertising.”

What distinguishes these two frontiers? Both platforms are highly immersive in nature.

Tom Roach elaborates that “through podcasts, brands have an opportunity to tap into a medium that does not need to capture attention”.

“Attention is inherent to the consumption experience.”

While these channels are growing in popularity, there is a caveat for brands who want to play in this space.

“Gamers don’t dislike ads, they just dislike intrusions and blended in-game formats keep game play intact and work with the activity – not against it,” cautions Richard O’Sullivan.

What’s next for attention measurement?

It’s clear that media consumption and consumer behaviours are indeed changing in Australia. This means that measuring attention must also evolve.

What is the science telling us so far?

Neuro-Insight’s Peter Pynta sheds light on the latest in the media quality movement being driven by Australian marketing scientists. In his paper, he makes the case for measuring the real-world impact of both the media and creative, beyond just attention metrics. He defines impact as “building, strengthening and re-triggering a network of memories in the brain”.

ARN’s Shannon Bosshard says: “Whilst attention is the primary driver for the change, brands should strive to understand the function of attention, but not limit themselves to it, and continue to learn how to utilise each medium in order to best capitalise on it.” One such underlooked medium is audio, which he provides evidence for in his paper.

Seven’s Ashley Spinks also echoes this sentiment for the broadcast industry. “Across the industry, there was a lack of knowledge about how a viewer’s behaviour changes while watching TV and more specifically, how behaviour changes during an ad break, for example, how likely is it that a viewer will leave the room during an ad break to carry out other tasks.”

She shares some learnings based on an effectiveness research study to address this question that is constantly raised by their clients.

While the landscape will continue to change at speed, Amplified’s Karen Nelson-Field and Carole Lydon make the case for why in the face of it all, attention is a resilient metric.

“Attention is a human metric. Rather than looking inward to measure device activity like scroll speed, time on screen and pixels, it looks outward to capture what the human is doing. This simple shift makes attention an incredibly resilient metric in the face of continually changing devices, formats, platforms and environments.”