The Weak and Strong in South Africa

We were invited by Spark Media to speak to an audience of 300 media types in South Africa this week, sharing the billing with Dr Virginia Beal, of the Ehrenburg Bass Institute, which is led by the famous Byron Sharp. I met Dr Beal the night before the conference: she had just come back from safari with our hosts and had come up close with a pride of lions.


The next day, Dr Beal was up first, and gave a compelling talk about how advertising really works. Many of us who work in the industry think that our job is to persuade people to buy a product. We want to get in front of our customers and really convince them why our cat food, say, is better than the other guy’s cat food. This is called the ‘Strong’ model of advertising.

This is also nonsense.

In reality, she said, most advertising works as a simple reminder of a brand’s existence. The aim is to build mental availability or ‘top of mind’ awareness, especially amongst infrequent buyers. In comparison with the ‘Strong’ model of advertising, this is has been called the ‘Weak’ model of advertising. But that makes it sound a bit weedy, so now people called it the ‘Salience’ model of advertising.

She went on to show that the Weak model is much stronger than the Strong model, across categories and countries.

Then Lumen got up on stage. And much to everyone’s relief, our data supported her argument neatly.

One of the reasons that the Persuasive model of advertising must be wrong is that people rarely hang around long enough to be persuaded. The average dwell time with advertising is vanishingly short: around 2 seconds for print, mobile and OOH ads, and less than a second for digital display ads. With this sort of ‘attention budget’ it’s very hard to communicate the precise details of an offer or give people a compelling ‘reason to believe’ in why your kitty dinner is better than the other guy’s.

What you can do, however, is remind people that you exist, and trigger an implicit emotional response. And this is pretty much exactly what happens. Most advertising gets looked at rather than read or deeply engaged with. No one really cares that ‘eight out of ten cats prefer Whiskas’, but everyone knows that ‘cats like Felix like Felix’ – and why simple, emotive advertising helped Felix become the number 1 cat food in Britain.

Want to find out more?

Why are advertisers returning to print?


Figures released this week show that investment in print advertising rose for the first time in 8 years. Not by much – it’s up 1% - but it’s up. The question is: why?

In part, print’s gain is down to digital’s dodginess. Every days seems to bring a new scandal, and advertisers seem to like the fact that if you spend a pound on a newspaper ad, you get a pound’s worth of ad. The pendulum may being swinging back.

That may be the case. But we think there’s another reason. Smart advertisers know that it’s not about the impressions you buy, but the impression you make. Print ads make more of an impression than digital ads, because people actually look at them – or at least look at them more, and for longer, than digital ads.

Lumen’s print data shows that a viewable print ad (i.e. an ad that you turn the page and can see) has a 79% chance of actually getting looked at. Data from the Lumen digital panel shows that a viewable digital ad currently has 21% chance of getting noticed – up from last year, when it was 18%, but still, much less than your average print ad.


But print is not just better at getting attention. It’s also better at keeping it. Your average print ad gets 2 seconds of attention. Not much, you might say, but better than 1.3 seconds you get on the average digital display ad.


People often ask us what the minimum attention threshold for an ad to work is. It’s horses for courses, to be honest: some ads, from some brands, need longer to do the job than others. But it’s a fair assumption that unless you get a second of eye’s-on attention, you’re unlikely to land your message or have your brand remembered.

And it’s here that print advertising really shows its class. Only 6% of digital ads get more than a second of actual attention, compared to 39% of print ads.


Of course, there is great variation in digital inventory. The best digital publishers can generate massively more attention than the average. There is digital inventory out there to rival print’s numbers. But it is rare. And, ironically, it’s often sold by the newspapers digital sales teams.

Given these numbers, is it any wonder that smart advertisers like Tesco are returning to print? If you want to buy ads that actually get noticed – that actually work - print is a better bet than digital.

Context enhances attention and grows sales


Opportunity to see an ad is not enough: consumers have to actually look at an ad for it to work. Crucially, it is the context in which viewability occurs that influences how much an ad gets noticed or engaged with before leading on to possible sales conversion. Advertisers who understand this can find ways to dramatically boost the attention their ads receive, while keeping their ad budgets the same


Brave or stupid?


Creative agencies often ask their clients to ‘be brave’: to take a risk or embrace uncertainty or feel the fear and do it anyway.

I can understand why they might want to argue this. Genuinely new ideas are, by their very nature, new – you can’t point to success that other people have had with the idea, because the idea hasn’t been done before.

But I can also understand why the agency argument doesn't always work".  We are risk-averse creatures: a campaign that is likely to work quite well might seem a better bet than one that might go off like a firework - but might fizzle out into nothing.

But perhaps we’ve got it all wrong. The biggest risk for most advertising isn’t that it won’t convince everyone who sees it, but that it won’t get noticed at all. Online, only 22% of the ads that people could see actually get seen – 78% get ignored.

In that context, it’s brave indeed to do boring or run-of-the-mill creative work. Actually, it’s not brave to waste that much of your budget: it’s stupid. Richard Shotton writes a compelling piece about just this in Marketing Week (quoting Lumen data, of course).

You can have the best of both worlds by derisking your creative decisions by doing a quick and painless pre-test to see if people really are noticing your ads. Have a look at some of our work in partnership with Ipsos to learn more, or click here to get in touch.

What’s Belgian for hilarious?

Why can’t data be funny?

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Our friends at Brightfish in Belgium have dramatized our attention data into a hilarious commercial. After this, we’re going to have to raise our game in terms of presentations. Check it out here.

News from Newsworks

We were at the Newsworks Effectiveness Summit this week, partnering with Unruly to talk about works when it comes to buying advertising, and then explaining how British Gas are using our data to help identify bargains in the market.

One of our big learnings is that ads on newsbrands seem like a bargain. The same ad, shown to the same sort of audience, is far more likely to get noticed on a newsbrand site than on other premium publisher sites.

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But why is this? In part it is down to the ‘velocity of attention’. People in the study we conducted for Newsworks consumed newsbrand sites slowly, engaging deeply with the article, and the surrounding advertising. In comparison, users they were more likely to skim read the more image-heavy comparison sites, quickly passing over the content – and the accompanying ads. You can download the findings – and see the talk - from the Newsworks website.

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Attention matters because attention leads to sales. Patrick Smith of British Gas joined us on stage to talk through the link between attention and sales – and how newsbrands deliver an unfair share of attention and sales. Here’s the link to the data.

Why context really is king

Brands are beginning to wake up to the fact that in a post-GDPR world, they are going to have to find smarter ways of identifying quality inventory. Suddenly, buyers are beginning to take the context in which you see advertising seriously again. But when everyone is claiming to be a ‘premium publisher’, how do you know where to get the good stuff?

At the Mediatel Big Day of Data, we were on stage with Andrew Tenzer of Trinity Mirror to talk about how attention data can help you sort the wheat from the chaff.

Trinity Mirror’s regional site have deeply engaged readers and simple layouts that are designed to maximise attention to advertising. But does this convert to actual engagement, recall and purchase intent?

(Hint: do you think we’d be on stage if it didn’t?)

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Whether you are a publisher looking to demonstrate your quality or a buyer looking for a bargain, we’d love to help.

Lumen partners with Ipsos to understand the power of creativity

Unseen is unsold, as the old adage has it. Most digital ads – 82%, to be precise – go unseen. We worked with Ipsos MORI to understand what makes the ads that buck this trend special. What does it take to get a ‘disproportionate share of attention’?

Download our joint report, Attention 2.0, to understand the reality of attention and how you can apply simple tips to earn the interest of your audience.


Nick Watson (Research Director, IPSOS MORI), Hayley Millard (Innovation Manager, IPSOS) and our very own Mike Follett will be sharing our learnings at Ad:Tech later this year, but if you can’t wait until then, please do get in touch and we will be more than happy to give you a preview and show you how you can boost your creative to drive attention and sales.

Attention on both sides of the Atlantic

We were speaking in both the ARF in New York and the MRS in London this week, talking through how we have been helping British Gas ‘buy attention’.

The complexities of ad tech mean that British Gas were finding it hard to distinguish the signal from the noise in their digital marketing. Often, they would find that just because an ad was technically viewable did not mean that it was any more likely to convert to a sale. British Gas asked us to use our attention models to identify which ads were most likely to be viewed – not just viewable – and see if this predicted sales better.

And it does.

The ads that we predict were most likely to be viewed are also the ads that are most likely to convert to sales.

We’re now working with British Gas and Mediacom to use this data to identify the sites and formats that drive attention most cost effectively – an ‘attention CPM’ - to make sure that they get more bang for their buck.

And thanks so much to Patrick Smith of British Gas for getting up on stage with us to tell the story. 

Is attention equal across media?


What unites a massive poster and a tiny mobile ad, a pop up ad and a cinema showpiece? They are all competing for your attention. But are they equally good at it?

This week, we have published two piece of research that address is this question in different ways.

On Thursday, we spoke at the FEPE conference with our friends from JC Decaux. We have been working with them to understand the relative impact of out-of-home, desktop display and mobile advertising. Instead of just applying the same viewability metrics across media, we have gone further, and conducted eye tracking tests across all three media to understand the ‘real reach’ of each. You can download the paper here.

One of the most interesting findings is about the relative dwell time with advertising across media. Loyal followers of Lumen will know that because dwell times with advertising are so short, we often advise our print and digital clients to ‘think like a poster’. This research confirms this finding in spades: advertising in all formats has more to learn from poster design than direct marketing.

The day before, we launched our ‘attention CPM’ initiative with Brightfish, the Belgian cinema marketing agency. They had conducted some eye tracking on TV and Cinema ads with a local supplier and wanted to compare their results to our data on print and digital advertising in the UK.

Working with local media agencies, they have gone one step further, and started to put a price on the attention that different media produce – a cost per thousand seconds of attention, or ‘aCPM’. When you look at how different channels produce attention to advertising, cheap media starts to look very expensive, and ‘expensive’ media starts to look like a bargain. They have even put together a handy ‘cost of attention’ calculator, which you can play around with here.

This is an approach that we have been championing within digital media for some time. If you want to buy attention, rather than just impressions, then check out our friends and partners Avocet and Parsec, or get in touch with us direct.