Hyper-Reality, a short film by Keiichi Matsuda, explores the concept of self-identity in a futuristic world, where the physical is inextricably linked with augmented reality. In the midst of an overwhelming sea of stimuli, will we be able to make meaningful sense of experiences in an increasingly “smart” world? Existential threats to human identity aside, the film brings up an impending implication for the advertising world. Despite advances in nootropics and other methods of self-optimization, human attention is fixed and the fight for consumer attention has intensified.
In today’s consumer landscape, Rowland Manthorpe of Wired UK believes that “attention is worth more than money.” An entire book has even been published on the topic in Faris Yakob’s Paid Attention, in which attention is defined as a qualitative measure of success, a commodity to be earned. This core tenet of Yakob’s book is perhaps the most critical to recognize in today’s advertising: attention can no longer be bought.
Society is leading a culture of more empowered consumers characterized by an increasing distrust for traditional forms of advertising (Forbes). In an attempt to capture focus, modern advertisements are implemented in a strategy of disruption. Scrolling through your Instagram feed or watching your friends’ Snapchat stories is enough to get a sense of the pervasiveness of these intrusive ads that disrupt engagement with users’ networks. This sort of “broadcast interruption marketing,” says marketing guru Seth Godin, is “unsolicited, unwanted, irrelevant” and is, at its essence, “a definition of spam” (Paid Attention). Instead of working in the way brands want, these advertisements only serve to further alienate consumers.
Every time you find your attention captured by a poster, your awareness, and perhaps something more, has, if only for a moment, been appropriated without your consent (Tim Wu).
The more consumers are bombarded with ads that disrupt their media consumption of choice, the more they will cognitively shut down at the slightest suggestion of advertising. Brands now “need to move beyond the idea of confronting consumers” (Paid Attention), and rather serve as architects of meaningful consumer experiences. In an era where people place a premium on such experiences, interactions between brands and consumers should be approached in a similar manner.