Consumer Attention – the ‘New’ Media Currency

Ad tech would not exist if not for the change in consumer behavior brought on by the evolution of content consumption. Today many in the advertising industry still fail to recognize the causality of media fragmentation and the need for automated or programmatic media planning and buying. We should not be demanding new content formats to deliver a traditional aggregated audience number of the past but rather understand that in a world of limitless consumer choice and content consumption, a far superior audience awaits a much more relevant and personalized communication from advertisers.

Consider that the consumer has at least five times as many content vehicles today than she did in 1960 and that new vehicles continue to emerge. The Internet has forever changed content distribution and exploded consumers’ choice of channels. The consumer has taken control of key elements, not just what content, where, when, and on what terms, but also demanding to participate. The combination of massive scale and reach with personalization has annihilated mass media and initiated the era of personal media. In 2013 there will be over one billion websites in existence, 72 hours of YouTube will be uploaded per minute, 70 billion pieces of content will be shared on Facebook per month, and apps in the Apple Store alone will have been downloaded over 50 billion times. At the same time traditional broadcast channels continue to see their conventional ratings numbers decline.

The shift to personal media inevitably brings dramatic change and huge opportunity. Personal media permits content to be shifted, bundled, unbundled, edited, stored, aggregated, filtered, and generally tweaked to an individual consumer’s own taste. The plasticity of content drives a significant explosion in the amount of media but also shrinks the average size of media goods. The unique cocktail of personal media means that the supply of media far outsizes the demand. Just juxtapose the numbers referenced above and consider that the world’s entire population is in the range of seven billion-plus. An economic truism is that when supply exceeds demand equilibrium prices fall, and herein lies the problem for the advertising industry; we obsess over price and yet consistently mis-categorize the currency. We fixate on CPM and ignore something far more valuable, consumer attention. We are drowning in a sea of available inventory and as a collective group we incent the creation of volume-based advertising rather than attention-based advertising.

Personal media suggests that we should reconsider every notion about the traditional delivery of planning, buying, and measuring media. The underpinnings of reach and frequency need to be completely reevaluated. Media measurement also has to be overhauled and the concepts of performance evaluation reconsidered. Today and tomorrow’s consumer attention equation cannot be solved without technology because it has been wrought by technology. And while the task of grabbing a consumer’s attention and communicating a brand’s proposition has become increasingly difficult, the rewards for the brands that solve the problem are exceedingly high.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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