Tuesday, August 30, 2011

You Only Have 6.5 Seconds

The typical viewer really only pays attention to 6.5 seconds of any television advertisement.  That’s how long advertisers have to “capture attention and motivate action.”cathy4

In her new book released last week, Cathy Davidson breaks down one of the most successful television spots and explains why creators spent millions to apply the science of attention to make sure viewers give attention to just the right 6.5 seconds and disregard stipulations such as product side-effects or the sponsors behind political attack ads.

This is why the cost of placing an ad is only the tip of the iceberg.  Perceptual eye tracking analysis has revealed the same thing about print and other forms of advertising.  It is also explains why headlines and photos are much more powerful than newspaper text.

It is also one of the reasons that marketing expert Laura Ries wrote this week that:

“Unless you spend enough to get above the noise level, money spent on advertising can be extremely wasteful. That's why mass-media advertising for a brand that isn't well known or doesn't have enough money to spend is ill advised. A brand like this is better off doing PR, social media and anything else it can think of.”

If a small business or organization elects to use advertising at all, here are six suggestions from a marketer:

  • Make sure the medium doesn’t turn off more consumers than it serves.  For instance, outdoor billboards are seen as a desecration by nearly 7 out of 10 North Carolinians compared to the 1 in 10 who make use of them weekly.  There are plenty of other “out-of-home” alternatives that are less expensive and don’t foster scenic and economic blight.


  • Insist on seeing the details of the cost per impression.  An ad may seem incredibly cheap but that is because it reaches very few people. Know your target audience and match it against the distribution and demographics of the outlet before you advertise.  Show it to a competitor or vet it with your community’s destination marketing organization (DMO.)


  • Leverage your ad by placing it in a publication that is official (in the legal sense) such a the Official Durham Visitor & Relocation Guide and don’t be fooled by perversions of that term “official” often used to hood-wink unsuspecting small businesses such as the low-circulation knock-off produced by the Chapel Hill-based Durham Magazine which uses the term “official” but only means that it is the magazine’s official guide, not Durham’s.


  • Understand who your customers are in order to know how to reach them.  Before advertising, spend resources on research to identify exactly who your customers are.  Advertising in today’s over-communicated world is wasteful and ineffective as an expert blogged this summer in Advertising Age.


  • Measure the results so you know how the advertisement performed.  Don’t rely on customers telling you they found your ad (they won’t remember.)  Use a unique URL or phone number in the ad that can be inexpensively tracked to determine the cost per inquiry.


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