Q&A: Inside the Rising Cost of Consumer Attention

Q&A: What the Rising Cost of Consumer Attention Means for Event Marketers

Q&A: What the Rising Cost of Consumer Attention Means for Event Marketers

Measuring the value of live events has traditionally entailed gauging dwell times and throughput, but a proprietary framework developed by Harvard Business School professor Thales Teixeira wants marketers to focus on a different metric: quality of attention.

Teixeira, who studies the “economics of attention,” developed the Attention Quotient framework using data captured at events activated by NVE Experience Agency, a partner in the research, to demonstrate how live experiences generate a cognitive shift within attendees that ultimately drives brand loyalty—more so than TV or digital ads. We took a deep dive into the framework with Teixeira to learn how it works and why event marketers should be adding it to their measurement toolkit.


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Thales Teixeira

Event Marketer: How has the quality of consumer attention changed over the years?

Thales Teixeira: The price of consumer attention is rising much faster than inflation. It has essentially skyrocketed, and in the study, we show that the cost of high-quality attention for certain types of mass media, like prime-time TV ads, has been increasing about seven to nine times, controlled for inflation, for the last 25 years. This is very, very fast. It’s much faster than any other business input I’ve come across.

 

EM: So, what has caused the price of consumer attention to increase?

TT: If you think of attention as a commodity, the supply of attention just increases as more people come into this world. But the demand for attention with all these companies is rising faster. There are more brands, more new products, more competition—they all want the same fixed pool of attention—and so prices rise when the supply is much less than the demand… Mass media is essentially getting very little attention from lots and lots of people—millions of people dedicating a few seconds. The opposite of this is to get much fewer people but a huge amount of their attention.

 

EM: How does the Attention Quotient work?

TT: The AQ takes into account three factors: It’s measuring how long you get people’s attention and what the quality of the attention is compared to an ad online; it measures word of mouth, and it measures impressions by third parties like p.r. agencies or media companies who pass [event] information on. All three factors are combined to understand the total impact on attention, direct and indirect, of live events.

 

EM: You talk about the “ladder of engagement” in your research. How does that apply to brands?

TT: When we meet somebody new, we talk to them for a few minutes and get their attention. Maybe a few days later we call them or email them and see if they want to grab coffee. It’s basically a 10-minute commitment. If that goes well, you have lunch next time. And if that goes well, you move on to a two-hour dinner. This is how people work. Unfortunately, brands do not operate this way. All of these startups are creating 30-second ads, 60-second TV commercials, and nobody’s ever heard of them before, but they expect people to actually pay attention for 60 seconds. For an unknown brand, that is the equivalent to actually calling somebody up for the first time and saying, “How about a two-hour dinner.” So what do you do as a brand? You typically have to create a display ad, or you have to create something small, and then you increase your engagement as consumers decide to pay attention to you.

 

EM: And how does experiential fit into the ladder of engagement?

TT: Experiential events fast-tracks this process. Instead of spending months or years to go step-by-step up the engagement ladder, you kind of turbo-charge them in the beginning. They go to your event to entertain themselves, to learn and to experience something unique. And after that, it’s like you just bumped them halfway up the ladder. That is the benefit of creating an experiential event.

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