The Battle for Attention – Cannes Lions Innovation Festival 2015

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  • @danmachen

    Digital Revolution vs. Human Evolution

  • At HeyHuman we obsess about the relationships people really have with brands and the difference between what they say, and actually do

    As part of ongoing behavioural research, we found it gets really interesting when you look at relationships with tech brands and brands empowered through technology

    People say it helps them multi-task and dominate their lives and say (and really mean it) that they cant live without it

    The question arises though what is this obsessive relationship doing to our heads?

    And from a marketing perspective what does it mean for attention and memory around our branded messages

    Working with neuroscientists, we leant into the hard questions about multi-screening and attention

  • vs. Human Evolution


    Digital Revolution

    Rate of Change

  • Before we dive into the brain lets take a macro view

    Digital technology still conforms with Moores Law, which suggests the number of transistors (memory and performance) will double every 2 years

    This has continued for 50 years (even to the surprise of the inventor of Moores Law)

    By comparison our brain is flat-lining, even decreasing. Over 20,000 years we have lost 10% of grey matter - about the size of a tennis ball.

    Good news is this is not an idiocracy, brains have become faster and more energy efficient for less physically demanding lives. Given brains use 20% of daily energy this is critical!

  • the economyof attention

  • But whats this flatline mean for attention and memory?

    Harvard Business calculated that the dollar value of attention increased by 20% in last 4 years (based on rising demand vs. our finite supply of brain power)

    In economic terms, the demands of digital messaging are outstripping cerebral supply

    The value of attention is only likely to increase

    Because we have an abundance of messaging, but a poverty of attention

  • The danger is as playwright Richard Foreman described it is that we become like pancake people spread wide and thin.

    By its very nature, digital is designed to disrupt

    Our minds are so disposed to be distracted, they sometimes create the distraction

    This is reflected by how we feel a buzz in our pocket when our phone has not received a message this is called Phantom Vibration Syndrome

  • When asked what tech does for them, people generally say it helps them multi-task

    We do it a lot. We look at phones 150 times a day, switch channel 21 times per hour, and spend nearly a day a week on Facebook.

    But the phrase multi-tasking is a misnomer - dating back to the early days of computing, it describes how machines can execute multiple processes simultaneously

    We havent adapted to allow for real multi-tasking. Instead, what were doing is something completely different called task-switching

    Task-switching describes swopping our attention rapidly between tasks

    Every time you switch focus, theres a cost to comprehension and mental energy

  • maxing our

    cognitive load

  • The lynchpin of attention is cognitive load

    This describes the number of bits of information that we can consciously think about simultaneously

    All conscious learning needs to pass through this gate, and its becoming increasingly competitive to do so digital demand is maxing out our head space

    As people increase their cognitive load their emotional engagement and their focused attention decreases

    We cant wait for the brain to evolve. We have to give it a helping hand by making our messages easy to process

  • dorsolateral

    pre-frontal cortex

    cognitive workload

  • The area of the brain thats most active in a stimuli rich environment is the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex this is involved in executive and memory functions

    With so much coming in and out of the brain, the challenge is that we dont give ourselves time to encode information to longer term memory - goes into striatum and not back to hippocampus

    Every ping of a message erodes the process of forming longer term memories

    An unread email can reduce your working memory by 10 points this is a more significant effect than smoking cannabis

    This is naturally a challenge for brands who are trying to create memory webs of positive associations

  • Objective: to understand what happens to attention, emotion and cognitive load in an increasingly multi-screen, high stimuli environment

    Phase 1: TV only

    Phase 2: TV and laptop

    Phase 3: TV, laptop and mobile

  • tv only

    tv + pc tv + pc + smartphone


  • As we layer on technology, various things happen

    Cognitive load and distraction increases with greater device use

    Attention drops as device use builds 92% ad recall drops to 32%

    Emotional engagement decreases as the number of devices increases

    When stimuli reaches its peak we witness cognitive collapse as people zone out from being overloaded

  • As people multi-task more, it becomes increasingly difficult for us to communicate to them.

    Their cognitive load increases and it becomes harder for them to take on new information.

    So whats the solution? Unless we put chips in our heads our brains arent going to evolve quick enough, so we need to give people a helping hand.

    There are some things we can do to communicate using other open channels into peoples brains, and the right strategy for brands moving forward is to place an increased focus on what were calling Brain-friendly Creative.

    Since cognitive load is like the brains equivalent to RAM, we need to do the same thing youd do if your computer was overloaded overclock it. We need to find new ways to get more out of the limited capability we have.

  • #1

  • We can over-clock cognition, by making good use of other channels of peoples working memory

    Audio is a primal sense that is often underplayed it is most powerful when it is very tightly synchronised with visuals as we will see in the following ad from Honda

    Cleverly synchronises sound and makes use of a speed reading app up to 1,000 words a minute

    There is increasing interest and sophistication in multi-sensory marketing, particularly neurosonic design


  • #2

  • Storytelling is a tricky mistress dominant narrative can actually come at the cost of ofbrand memorability

    That is why Magicians place such a focus on storytelling as they dont want you to know what the other hand is doing

    In our context this is a challenge: because the narrative story can become the main take-out at the cost of remembering what the brand message is

    We are seeing an increased practice based on Byron Sharps work How Brands Grow

    By understanding the brands strongest visual cues, (key brand assets), we can make it simpler for people to connect with brands by unconsciously priming them towards our brand

  • When youre at a party and the room is full of noise, you always manage to hear if someone says your name on the other side of the room

    This is called the cocktail party effect it explains how people are able to focus in on one specific piece of stimuli if they detect saliency

    Brands can capitalise on this to help grab peoples attention by creating contextually relevant content and experiences

    Content should be personalised wherever possible - we should use multiple APIs to bring in contextual data where valuable name, location, understanding the time of day people receive your messages, mindset, proximity, weather

    This equally relevant to social, as POS we need to know what triggers attention in context most strongly


  • In the videos you saw what tech is doing to our heads

    In terms of attention, brands and agencies must consider the real-world context our messages are received in

    We need to reframe the disruptive model of advertising we are communicating amidst constant partial attention

    Agencies and brands need to make campaigns easy to process for audiences that are already overloaded with messaging

    Understand brain friendly techniques - multi-sensory marketing, simplicity over storytelling, conquering context

    If we really want to get beyond what people say about brands, and into what they actually do this neuroscience is one small step towards a giant leap in creative insight