In the dock
The industry has been put on trial for the crime of theft, and Alex Lawson believes time is running out to prove its innocence (and value to society).
Alex Lawson on ads that steal time.
TIM WU, in his Wired article ‘ The Crisis of Attention Theft, Ads That Steal Your Time for Nothing in Return’, argues the advertising industry should be locked up. Our crime? Attention theft, larceny on a daily basis.
Wu asserts that advertisements in places that garner attention but offer no perceivable value exchange are not only unethical and criminal, but detrimental to our mental health and even impinge on our free will. Gas station TVS, airline seatback TVS, shopping malls and other forced viewing zones are targeted by Wu with us, the evil marketing industry, being the chief villain of this Orwellian tale of mind control.
I would actually extend Wu’s definition to advertisements within places that you have initially paid for. For instance, magazines, cinema and paid TV that on the surface appear to offer no additional content in return. If you’ve paid for it already do you deserve to be taxed again?
Wu may have watched Minority Report one too many times, but we should indeed be asking ourselves: Are we guilty of attentional theft and what is the potential impact on our client’s brand?
There is no denying that our job is to garner the attention of those that otherwise wouldn’t give it to us. Let’s face it, not many folk actively look forward to the ad break, go on billboard tours or tune into a radio station thinking, “I wish this song would end so they can play me some ads!”
In a society that is increasingly able to avoid, switch off or just plain block our ads, can we afford not to offer something in return? With a core audience that consistently demands some type of value exchange and is increasingly choosy about the type of advertising that they will allow through their devices, we are committing marketing suicide by ignoring the Attention Economy.
The Attention Economy in marketing represents an exchange between advertiser and audience providing a tangible benefit. This is most easily appreciated on channels such as FTA TV, news websites, Youtube and so on. These are places where you’re receiving content in return for accepting exposure to the advertising message, thus commoditising your attention.
However, unlike Wu, I believe that there are four types, not one, of attentional value exchanges in the economy with each providing a distinct, if not always obvious, value to the consumer.