I’m thinking about a basic model for understanding the potential effectiveness of online advertising based on Engagement. Basically:
The more Engaged a person is with the task at hand, the less Attention they have for out-of-context advertising.
The gross amount of Attention available on the web is finite. That means if you pay Attention to one thing, you have to ignore something else. This creates Attention winners and Attention losers. In general, for any space available for advertising, in-context wins and out-of-context loses. That’s Relevance, right? Therefore, out-of-context ads should be much less effective than in-context ads.
So, for example, if the task is Research, and a person is using a Search Engine, the PPC ads focused on the Research topic are highly relevant and Attention gets paid to them. Also, in the same Research mode, if a person is searching or participating in a Chat Board focused on the topic, display ads focused on the Research topic are viewed as highly relevant and Attention gets paid to them.
However, if the task is (for example) interacting with a social media account, then very little Attention is available for advertising – PPC or otherwise – because all other advertising would be out of context with the task, except ads directly related to the task, such as for widgets or tools. This effect would generally explain the concept of Banner Blindess, since most display advertising is completely out-of-context. People just learn to ignore it.
Not breakthrough thinking in Consumer Behavior or Psychology but for Online Advertising it might be, considering the number of business models nowadays that plan for “advertising” to be the revenue stream. In fact, it’s quite possible that the more Engaging they make these social apps, the less effective the Advertising will be.
It’s about the limited amount of Attention any one person can have.
When ads are in context, you get an effect much more like that of Fashion or Hot-Rod Magazines, where the ads are part of the content, they are part of the Engagement and so get Attention. Out of context, much less Attention, if any. Not part of the content, screened out.
For the same ad, PPC or Display. In other words, it’s not the delivery method that matters, it’s the context and available Attention. PPC ads by their very nature just happen to have the context problem solved.
For example, a TV ad running in the middle of a favorite TV show is much more effective on an individual than the same TV ad that plays in the background while someone is Engaged with a project on the computer. Same ad, different context.
Now, here’s the thing. This idea makes a lot of sense. Can we expect anyone with scale to test it, prove it empirically? I dunno, because an awful lot of business models will get completely hammered if it is true.
The test would be pretty simple:
1. Define Engagement – really not too hard for this, it’s how many “actions” take place per unit of time. Seems to me this would capture the whole Attention thing; if you are busy taking actions, that’s where your Attention is.
2. Run both in-context and out-of-context ads during the measurement period. Display or PPC.
3. a. Measure clicks and conversion, if that is your game
b. Measure Awareness and Intent, if that is your game
4. Compare results
Does anybody think that out-of-context advertising would win, or at least match in effectiveness?
If there is a difference, what does it mean for biz models relying on out-of-context impressions? What can they do to correct this problem?
The next post in this series is here.