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).

New Zealand Marketing - - News -

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.

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