System1: The Triple Opportunity of Attention

Last year at Cannes, System1’s Orlando Wood teamed up with Dr. Karen Nelson-Field from Amplified Intelligence and Peter Field to talk about the “Triple Jeopardy of Attention” – an event that put a spotlight on the vital importance of attention and why it’s in short supply.

Fortunately, every threat is also an opportunity, and for Cannes 2023 Orlando and Karen were back, joined by Rob Brittain from the Advertising Council Australia, to talk about the “Triple Opportunity of Attention”. This year, they presented a new study using business outcome data from campaigns on the Advertising Council Australia’s effectiveness database. They examined the campaigns through the lens of Amplified Intelligence’s media attention data and tested the creative from these campaigns using Amplified Intelligence’s attention metrics and System1’s Test Your Ad effectiveness measures (emotive Star Rating). This enabled them to look at the contribution of media attention, creative strength and investment on business outcomes.

If you couldn’t make it on the day or weren’t in Cannes, here are the 5 big takeaways we found.

1. Platform is king

The big theme of the work was the difference between high-attention and low-attention platforms. Platform matters – it’s tough to paint a masterpiece when your canvas is the size of a desk photo. The UI of different media platforms imposes hard limits on attention which even great creative can’t overturn. Understanding the platforms you’re on, and investing in those that command high-attention, is central to unlocking attention and growing your brand.

2. The ESOV opportunity – pay attention to attention.

Rob Brittain showed how Excess Share Of Voice (ESOV) continues to drive mental availability and business effects, even for campaigns using low-attention platforms. But it is only when you use high-attention platforms that the full benefit of ESOV becomes clear. This was something the presentation showed again and again – high-attention platforms multiply the positive effects of other factors like spend and creative quality.

3. The media opportunity – reach is not created equal.

Dr. Karen Nelson-Field’s section asked marketers to think again about how they approach reach. Reach is at the core of why low-attention platforms are so risky for brands. People simply tune out more quickly – what Nelson-Field calls fast decay. So you might think that everyone will watch to the end of your ad (that it will achieve 100% attention volume or 100% reach), but in reality you are likely to achieve much less than this – perhaps only 20% attention volume for fast decay attention platforms. This has implications for reach curves, which Nelson-Field suggests should be adjusted downwards for media attention (and further downwards still for campaigns using low-attention media) because a claimed 100% reach might really be 20% – most viewers simply don’t reach the threshold where they can even recognize the brand. Even for higher attention platforms, 100% reach is a myth – with slow decay of attention it’s closer to 40% – but that’s far better than low-attention platforms where attention decays quickly. The opportunity for media planners lies in understanding these decay curves, which are different for every platform, sector, and demographic.

4. The creative opportunity – moto e azione.

Creativity can’t overcome the limitations of low-attention platforms, but Orlando offered a new way of thinking about how you make those seconds count. Or actually an old way – it’s what Italian master painters were doing 400 years ago. Orlando described moto e azione – the way painters like Caravaggio would find and highlight the emotional turning point in a story, where dramatic expressions and gestures convey inner insight and understanding. Filmmakers and advertisers do it too, like in this 5-Star Kit Kad ad where medieval soldiers struggle with a flatpack catapult – until the brand-created turning point. This attention to drama, emotion and critical moments helps work achieve the maximum impact and attention. The trio described how this kind of emotive work has the benefit of both extending the attention paid to your ad – in particular on high-attention platforms (and up to the natural attention ceiling of the platform) – but also of helping to lodge the brand in memory, creating mental availability that drives business effects both now and into the future.

5. The triple opportunity works together.

Finally, the presenters emphasized how the triple opportunity comes as a total package. Improving creative, media choices and investment will each individually help, but the three opportunities work best in unison.

○ Platform choice determines the ability of ESOV and creativity to move the commercial needle.
○ Investment pushes your brand ahead of its competitors in the long term – and this is amplified with the right creative and on the right platform.
○ Dramatic, emotional, entertaining work can really show its star quality on the proper stage with appropriate investment.

The presenters showed with this study what they concluded by saying at Cannes last year: “For salience, sales and lasting effects, it’s brand-building advertising for broad-beam attention on attention-rich media.”

Orlando closed by saying that the most valuable paintings in the 17th century were those which included narrative and characters – these cost more to create, required a patron, demanded research, considerable skill and large, visible canvases. The least valuable genre was deemed to be the still-life – the abstracted close-up of ‘spoils of the hunt’, all life removed; paintings that you might pick up in a shop or at a market stall. He suggested that we should perhaps value advertising creative in much the same way, because advertising with narrative and character also has a greater commercial value, because it can command attention, elicit emotional response and generate growth. And so “if you’re an advertiser,” he concluded, “perhaps you should be asking your agency for advertising with a little more moto e azione.”

To learn more about the Triple Opportunity of Attention, get in touch with our experts.