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July 4, 2023

8 ways to beat the 8 second advertising challenge

With the omnipresence of smart phones, have you ever wondered why it’s so hard to stay focused. Stay with me here. 
Microsoft recently shared a study which revealed humans now only have an eight second attention span, shorter than a goldfish. As marketers we have a very real challenge on our hands. How can we engage an audience who’s attention is being dragged away every eight seconds and keep it for long enough to build something effective? 
It’s not easy, but here are eight tips that will help you overcome the goldfish factor. 

One - Get emotional 

The most powerful ads and successful brands put storytelling and emotion at the heart of their strategy. John Lewis have become industry leaders for their emotionally powerful advertising at Christmas. In the UK, Brits eagerly await the launch of their Christmas instalment each year. For many, it’s become the moment the Christmas season begins.  
Now while we can’t all create ads on the same scale (or with the same budget) as John Lewis, we can take on the importance of including emotional storytelling in our content strategy. Storytelling humanises your brand, creates an emotional connection with your audience and encourages consumers to trust you.  
You don’t need an exciting product either. Characters like the ‘Duracell Bunny’ can entertain, inform, engage and lift a dull product. Andrex toilet paper use a Golden Retriever puppy – successfully building emotion with their consumers on what would otherwise be a hard product to sell.  
As David Ogilvy ‘the father of advertising’ once said ‘there are no dull products, only dull writers’. So get creative with your storytelling. 

Two - Use data to elevate your ads 

When you’re fighting with so much competition, the importance of using data cannot be stressed enough. Data can inform when the best time to speak to your audience is and tell you who they are, including their gender, age, and precise location. All this will help inform your content and how best to communicate with your followers.  
Data can also open up creative opportunities, as shown in one of our campaigns. After realising there’s an ideal temperature to drink a pint of Guinness, we used weather data to inform whether or not it was ‘Guiness Season’. The simple activation would allow anyone to claim a free beer at a pub nearby when the weather hit a certain temperature.  
You can also find out things like whether you have a lot of sports fans in your audience. Knowledge like this can help you know whether it’s worth tapping into calendar moments, in this case, sporting events. You can build your content plan around this – creating a stronger relationship with your audience.  

Three - Get personal 

This leads us to peronalisation. If you know precisely who you’re talking with, you can create a much more personalised and tailored content experience. For example, using their name in your eDM marketing, or serving them personalised content which fits their interests at the right time of day will be much more likely to bring their eyes to your content vs others who have created generic content which doesn’t ‘speak to them’.  
However, it’s possible to fall into the hyper-personalisation trap too. It’s unnecessary to talk to your database one-to-one. By clearly defining brand outcomes in the context of your targets’ needs, you can create thoughtful cohorts at scale. In this way you can have a ‘tailored’ conversation based on actual behaviours rather than pointless parameters that only emphasise the fact the interaction is anything but personal. 

Four - Get crafty with your audience 

Incorporating content your audience has created (User Generated Content, or UGC) is a very worthwhile strategy.  
In a world of fake news, people want to see authentic, real experiences and true reviews. So re-sharing content that your audience has created (which could be reactions, reviews, ‘how to’s’ or images) can all work as a regular content pillar in your strategy. It will a) help build trust with your audience and; b) likely inspire more to share their experience in the hope you might feature them.  
Additionally, UGC usually has a more unpolished, unfiltered look. This will help it blend in more naturally on social media feeds and not stick out as obvious advertising – which tends to be more of an annoyance to your audience.  

Five - Share tips, tricks & bite-sized content 

As well as creating a personalised, more connected relationship with your audience, you want to give them reasons to follow you. This is where tips and tricks are useful and likely to keep your audience engaged. After all, as the brand, you are the expert – so once you’ve built trust with your audience, they should trust your advice.  
A lot of people also use social media as their source for information and news these days, so providing them with nuggets of new info will be well received. Keeping them to bite-sized, short digestible pieces of content will help ensure you meet the eight second challenge, and also make your content super shareable.  
Ever had a friend forward on a meme, quote or statement that’s interesting or relatable on social? This is what you’re aiming to achieve here. So, keep it short and sweet but make it a tip people can’t resist saving down or sharing! 

Six - Choose your words carefully 

This leads us into the maybe obvious, but not-to-be-overlooked tip: copy. Invest in it. 
With just eight seconds to grab a person’s attention, copy can be one of the most imporant ways to catch them or stop them scrolling past. We’ve all experienced OOH that’s made our heads turn, or radio ads that grabbed our attention, or seen a video or static post with copy that speaks to us. Words are key, and ensuring your copy is the right length, tone and messaging is something you need to nail.  
Think about where it appears too. Whether in your caption or video, it all helps.  

Seven - Use subtitles, they’re cool now 

With video now one of the most popular and recommended formats to use these days, subtitles have become another key consideration.  
Lots of people scroll through their feed without sound. To avoid them missing the point, or that punchy opening hook you spent ages crafting, catch their attention with subtitles.  
There has also been evidence that subtitles are increasingly popular amongst younger generations, with the BBC and Kapwing reporting that 80% of respondents in the 18-25 age group stating that they watch TV (on any device) with subtitles on “some or most of the time,” – the most of any age group. So with Gen Z being a prime target audience for many brands, this shouldn’t be overlooked. 
Plus, it will make your content accessible to audiences with hearing impediments. That’s something we should all aim to do.  

Eight - Tap into podcasts 

Our final tip is to consider a form of media not tapped into by many. These days, it feels like everyone’s got a favourite podcast. Maybe it’s because everytime we open our phones, we get bombarded with requests, alerts, or adverts. Screenless, long-form, informative and entertaining – podcasts are a great way to escape and truly unwind.  
So while many attention spans are waning everywhere else, consumers are arguably increasing their attention when it comes to podcasts. 
According to research by Spotify, 60% of their audience tune into podcasts to educate themselves, and two thirds of podcast listeners give their full attention when listening. Additionally, a study conducted by Edison found Australian podcast listeners listen to an average of five podcasts per week.  
So if you are wanting to reach your audience or hold their full attention, advertising in the podcast space could be a great area to consider. Spotify’s research also reported that 81% of listeners have taken action after hearing audio ads during a podcast, so the power of podcasts should not be underestimated. 
While eight seconds seems almost impossible to tackle, we hope that our eight tips can give you some inspiration for your next content strategy meeting. At the very least, we hope you realise it is still possible to reach and engage your audience in today’s ultra-challenging climate. 


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