Archives for posts with tag: attention economy


There are many terrible DJ’s out there. I know, because I am one of them.

What makes a terrible DJ?

When you start out as a DJ, nobody pays attention to you. You play at times when nobody wants to dance and everybody just wants to drink and socialize.

What do you do?

You push the power button to 150%. You play hits, bang it out. No interludes. No build-ups. No rest. Bang. Bang. Bang.

The result? You tire out the audience, they’re spent by the time the main act starts, and your reputation is ruined forever. Everybody can bang out hits after hits. That wasn’t your job. Your job was to take people on a journey, to get them ready for the main act. The empty dance floor pushed you to a place you didn’t want to go to. But you did.

In the digital marketing world, we all face this dilemma.

Both work.

You can put the pedal to the medal and try to get as much attention as possible. No matter what people say, it works. Over time, the returns diminish and you have to push harder and harder. Louder and louder.

Or you can start your marketing performance, wait for somebody to listen and take this person on a journey. Others might stop and listen. That’s secondary because your goal is to seduce one. And let them spread the word for you.

Unlike DJ’s, there’s nothing wrong with either approach. However, you need to stick with your choice. You can’t transform from a coffee house into a rave club. Or vice versa.

Just look at your brand and ask yourself: Do I want to get as much attention as possible? Or, do I want to give as much attention as possible?

Only you can answer that.


“Always in Beta.”

“Soon is not good as now.”

“Launch. Iterate. Rinse and repeat.”

You hear it everywhere. Don’t try to create anything perfect. Nothing is perfect. Just make it good enough and launch. Don’t just fail. Fail really, really, really fast.

While I believe in the spirit of these statements and don’t believe that everything we do should be perfect, we have gone too far with this meme. If it’s not good enough, don’t just launch it because you created a self-imposed deadline. This is especially true for advertising, marketing and digital products.

There’s not one person in the world that’s standing in line to see your marketing. Why are you rushing so much to satisfy a need that doesn’t exist? It applies to anything you create. What’s the rush? Why not take another week to make it better and make and a real impact?

We’re all competing for the attention of people: Millions of other things they could be doing  instead of engaging with your idea. More importantly, every time you release an idea into the world, people will make a decision if they pay attention to you next time. All of us have diminishing free time and once they consider you not worthy, it will be impossible to get them back.

You want people to spend time with your idea and, hopefully, spread them for you, you have to stop rushing. Instead, take your time, create things people want to spend time with, and make them so good they want to tell their friends.

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You click on a button on your iPhone and it immediately bursts into life, the blinking “slide to unlock” label hinting at the direction of the motion it wants you to make. That rich, lively screen just begs for your attention. Add to that the layer of notifications and you have no willpower left to resist. No matter what’s happening around you: a kid wanting to play with you, a book waiting to be read, a view that wants to be soaked in – once the iPhone wakes up, everything else in the room disappears; your attention’s been stolen by that burst of light. The iPhone (and the iPad, for that matter) is a needy, attention-craving siren that will enslave your attention by it’s amazing beauty at the expense of the world around you. It’s a temptress that constantly reminds you: “You could be on Twitter now” or “You could engage with your friends on Facebook now.”

The Dopamine release

When you check your information, when you get a buzz in your pocket, when you get a ring – you get what they call a dopamine squirt. You get this little rush of adrenaline and, most of the time, you are disappointed. Sure, you get this little information nuggets, the location of your friends, the links they share, the inconsequential email but it’s doesn’t satisfy your craving for more. But when you don’t get this little alarms, you feel bored, you want that little excitement. You’re being conditioned by technology to check, check, check and check.

Information is like food. It nourishes us and we need it to survive in the 21st technology, to be a productive citizen. Yet, food has positives and negatives. As Fast Food Nation clearly showcased, a steady diet of fast food won’t lead to any good. Actually, it might lead to your quick demise. While we know to distinguish between Twinkies and Muesli, we still have trouble distinguishing between information red meat and information red grain.

The diminishing returns of noisy technology

Over time, we have created our information foundation: Email, Facebook, Twitter, Messageboards, Foursquare and other platforms that solve problems for each individual. We don’t have a lot of attention left in our life to add more information and platforms. Apps and destinations became more noisy to get our attention. Just like a gathering that started out as a small dinner party, developed into a party with loud music and now looks like this:


(Talking about Dopamine.) You can enjoy a rave for a few hours, maybe even all night and a nice sunrise. But it’s not a sustainable model. We can’t continue to add new technologies and new platforms, begging us for information constantly without hitting the wall. I would argue, we’ve already reached that wall and we’re about to hit it.

Nobody is saying noisy technologies will disappear. It’s just too intriguing and easy to blink, flash and beep to get the attention of people. But the returns are diminishing and people are starting to look for technologies that solve problems with out being a needy temptress.

In Part 3 we’ll talk about the emergency of calm technologies and their integration into the information ecosystem.


Paid Media

This business has been around since brands started to understand that paying for media increases their sales. It doesn’t matter if you’re buying TV, Print, OOH or Digital – the principles are similar. You determine where your placed media gets the best efficiency and effectiveness, and you purchase media placements that work for your brand. The latest wrinkle to this model is to partner with specialized buying agencies that can get you the best bang for your buck. Especially in the digital space, you need to work with sophisticated partners to take advantage of DSP’s, SSP’s, RTB’s and all these other inventions in the age of the quant. Your partner (in most cases an agency) will focus on putting your communication in the most relevant environment for the lowest price.

Earned Media

Earned Media is not free. Instead of paying for a placement or exchanging money with a partner for their execution, you are paying for the time and resources of people who are engaging with your brand on multiple platforms. You can deploy employees, contractors, social agencies, media agencies or your intern. You always have to keep in mind that you need to find a hook for people to talk about you. You can’t buy their attention, you need to earn it. Often, that hook is created by an outside source (agency) since brands don’t have the resources for that specific task. The people talking about you aren’t compensated (unless you want to run an unethical, ineffective initiative), instead you provide triggers to share their love of the brand. This can come in many forms: content curation, sharing content, seeding content, interacting with brand loyalists. We’re still figuring this out but we know it’s real and search engines love that. As a brand, you need to meaningfully participate in the spaces where your brands, products and services are relevant.

What paid media can learn from earned media.

If you’re boring, mediocre or just shill your products, you’ll never make it in the earned media world. You need to find ways to earn attention. This can be done through a remarkable product, service, promotion, initiative or stunt. The emphasis is on “remarkable”. The brand has to develop something that’s worth talking about. When something is remarkable, brands earn the attention of people.

Paid media, on the other hand, is often used to disrupt people. The remarkable thing about digital marketing is the technology behind the scenes. All these new exchanges and trading desks, the quants at works. Just to deliver a more efficient and relevant impression to people. This might be remarkable to all of us but the customer doesn’t care. He might be surprised/annoyed to find the same banner following him throughout the Internet after he visited a brand site. But the actual creative is absolutely unremarkable. Most display ads are forgettable commodities that communicate mainly: “Nothing to see here.” While we focus our whole attention on the remarkable aspect of our technology, we tend to forget what real good creative can do: Get people talking.

Things won’t be getting easier. It will be tougher and more expensive in the years to come to pay for attention. Too many screens, too many things to do. It’s so alluring to focus on better technology and more advanced algorithms. But if your creative/value proposition is not up to par, attention increasingly will come at a high premium.


This post was first published on Jack Myers’ MediaBizBloggers site.

Last week’s Monaco Media Forum with the theme “Mobilization” was a fascinating event filled with superstars of the media, advertising, VC and emerging technologies world. As usual with conferences of this magnitude, the most insightful conversations took place outside of the main event center.

It is pretty apparent that the advertising/media industry continues to optimize ways delivering relevant messages to people: Data warehouses, behavioral targeting, and contextual targeting – you name it. While the powerhouses of that industry shared the main stage, emerging technology providers and VC’s are starting to build new tools that focus more on the intent of people.

Advertising faces a race to the bottom: studies have shown that the least desirable customers click on ads and paying people specifically to look at advertising is likely to catch lower income people with time on their hands – not a good option for marketers. Sure, we’re getting better at delivering relevant messages to people but the success rates of our marketing efforts are fairly low and the privacy questions comes up more often. Which leads us to the question: Where are we going from here?

The Intention Economy

A more effective way of engaging with people is to build tools that engage both parties (customers and vendors) in ways that work for both. While CRM systems are very one-sided in their benefits, ask vendors to bear the burden of the whole engagement and don’t allow customers to engage on their own terms, VRM systems (Vendor Relationship Management) help customers to be equipped with tools that transform them from followers in the marketplace to leaders. Let me give you an example:

Location-based apps are the big craze in the emerging media world right now. I visit a place, check-in and the marketing tactic is to receive special offers from the place itself or competitors. The VRM idea would be different: It’s noon and I plan on going to lunch in 10 minutes. I declare my intent to restaurants within a specific radius, even specifying my budget and the size of my party. Restaurants have now the opportunity to engage with me during the next 10 minutes to send me specific offers, based on my intent. Clearly, brands have a real captive audience for a limited amount of time and don’t need to waste any advertising inventory with guesswork.

VRM used to be an intellectual framework, nothing more. The Monaco Media Forum convinced me that entrepreneurs are starting to buy into this concept and building the necessary tools to bring VRM to life. I saw apps and sites that are based on the VRM model, and I’m convinced that the end of data collection for advertisers (Foursquare, Facebook) is near. The future is bright and the future is based on intent.


You’re at a cocktail party, engaged in a conversation. Suddenly, you get interrupted by someone. He’s making an effort to take your attention away from your conversation. Since you’re polite person, you pay attention for a period of time, mildly annoyed and always the thought in mind: How can I get back to that initial conversation and make the intruder go away?

20 minutes later, you wander around, looking for new people to engage with. Interesting pieces of a conversation get your attention, an interesting social object people gather around, something worthwhile to give attention to. Slowly, you get drawn into the conversation, to be fully engaged within a few minutes.

There is a huge difference between taking away attention and giving attention. When we take away attention, it really doesn’t belong to us. We didn’t earn the attention, we just grabbed it. But when you give attention to something, it becomes part of our being. The attention was earned, thereby freely given, and this creates a feeling of belonging and ownership.

Bad marketing takes away attention. It uses every trick in the book to get my attention: Headlines, hidden ‘Close’ buttons, pop-ups increased volume when the show switches to advertising. Bad marketing knows it has to revert to these tricks to get any attention. It’s the kind of angry attention an annoying intruder deserves. Bad marketers have no other choice. That’s the only way to get in front of people. Bad marketing is based in fear. And everyone knows it. Bad marketers get really defensive when they are challenged.

Good marketing earns attention. It draws you in, it makes people give away their precious time to engage with the marketing product. It’s a story well told. It’s an insight revealed. Good marketing is based in confidence. Confidence that we don’t need cheap tricks to get your attention. Confidence that we will deliver a marketing product that adds value.

Bad or good marketing: Both get the attention they deserve.