Who’s Paying the Price for your Attention?

by | Jan 22, 2021 | Thoughts

The average salary in the UK is approx £30k per annum, or about 25p per minute. Statistics show 16–24 year olds spend on average 34.5 hours per week on the internet and now more so on mobile than computers. Clearly, the interaction with technology has become a job in itself. But who’s playing and who’s paying?

As an ageing millennial, I find myself bemused by just how much time Gen Z are spending absorbed by their phones, their thumbs scrolling through content with incredible efficiency, sifting through ‘sponsored’ content lurking amongst viral and genuine social activity. I remember a simpler time when my social feeds were full of social posts, not brands all competing for my time and paying Mr. Zuckerberg and Alphabet handsomely for it.

With an increasing focus on how we spend our time online, much is being made of the impact on mental wellbeing, but what about the impact on your financial wellbeing? Time is money, after all.

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia

The evolution of the information superhighway has turned the business world on its head. The business of attention is now big business with the global top line advertising revenue of Google and Facebook breaching $200 billion. The spoils of corporate war have moved from real estate or shelf space to your attention and the data points that it creates.

Whilst GDPR has gone some way to highlighting and control just how much our online activity is tracked for the purpose of advertising, we seem to have little issue with ‘Accepting All’ cookies and trackers across the web. We’re being hunted and the lucky prize for us consumers is adverts for things you either bought two weeks ago or can’t you’ll never buy (Ferrari, you can stop advertising to me now!).

With all the talk of big data, AI and real-time algorithms providing the ‘value-add’ brands so crave and achieving the industry benchmark of 1% interactions, it seems to me the only people winning are Google, Facebook and the machinery that supports their network. Would we let Mi5 spy on us all day to attain a 1% ‘success’ rate in keeping us safe?

I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing

Many of us non-Gen Zers will recall the ‘good old days’ of advertising when brands crafted beautifully cinematic content with equally catchy jingles that you just couldn’t get out of your head. Back then, you knew exactly where you were. Adverts would run during opportune times, in between Coronation Street and The Big Match and you could schedule your comfort breaks around them or sing along with the family. I still gladly watch ‘Best Ads of the 90s’ programs and look forward to the annual Christmas treat of the John Lewis & Coca Cola adverts. Equally, the novelty of sitting through quality adverts before a film at the Cinema never wears thin!

However, with live television all but dead, the world of on-demand and instant availability of box sets is squeezing advertising out scheduled moments on our televisions and into our social lives — literally. Advertising is now sneaking up on us, all over our social feeds, any time of day or night and increasingly served to us in partnerships with today’s ‘influencers’. They’re certainly getting paid but I wonder how many of their followers are bots or children with absolutely no spending power. All in the name of building brand loyalty apparently. I’d like to see a different world.

The Times They Are A-Changing

Legislation is often a key catalyst in behavioural change. GDPR and the equivalents in the US are driving user choice engagement and dis-engagement decisions. Additionally, we recently saw that Google Chrome is removing third party cookies whilst coincidentally also planning to launch a bank…big tech and fintech have been on a collision path for a while now but I feel we should be bracing for imminent impact.

The big question is whether or not the consumer will get the spoils…and I fear that’s currently very unlikely.

Perhaps through brands’ increasing desire to create and deliver greater experiences with their customers or ‘advertainment’, a new platform will emerge that will take the best parts of this changing world and arrange them in a way to ensure both the brands and the consumers get their fair share of the value, or as I call it Attention Equity for All.

The Future Is Now

The ‘Attention Equity For All’ movement is gathering pace. A world where brands can directly engage with potential consumers without the need for intermediaries is on the horizon. We are in an attention economy and the time for a re-distribution of power and wealth is now.

The technology exists today to enable 1–2–1 connections between brands and hyper-targeted consumers, whilst rewarding them accordingly for their attention. Watch this space!


by | Jan 22, 2021 | Thoughts


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