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    Make Them Remember: Increasing Mental Availability in Advertising

    Do you remember the latest Coca-Cola ‘Masterpiece’ ad featuring contemporary artists and their works enhanced with AI? How can we forget it – it’s literally every marketer’s dream to achieve that level of top-of-mind awareness for their brand. 

    Mental availability is the concept used in advertising and marketing to describe the consumer’s ability to recall a particular brand or product when they are in a buying situation. Quite understandably, increasing mental availability is a top priority for marketers. It can be influenced by various factors, such as advertising budget, creative, product placement, media channel and even word-of-mouth recommendations. 

    Ready to dive deeper? Check out our selection of key takeaways on the subject of mental availability:

    • The triple jeopardy of not taking attention seriously. Attention is an important factor because it builds mental availability, the core of long-term brand building. In arecent session at Cannes, three prominent industry experts, including Peter Field, Dr. Karen Nelson-Field and System1’s Orlando Wood, discussed the so-called Triple Jeopardy – three linked threats created when marketers ignore attention as a goal. The three trends specified as damaging to attention are: budget going to the sort of ads that aren’t intended to build attention; media planning not valuing platforms that build attention; and creative work that lacks elements that gain broad attention. According to the industry experts, all three of these threats can be countered. But together they are having a catastrophic impact on effectiveness.

    • How budgeting influences mental availability. Byron Sharp writes that, on average, just 20% of a marketing budget is effective. Most ad exposures are either missed or unattributed to the brand. Brands don’t reach enough of their category buyers – or do so in uneven bursts.Going dark,’ or cutting ad spend to zero, is typically considered the worst thing to do. Research from Ehrenberg-Bass shows brands that go dark for a year or more see sales fall, on average, 16% after one year and 25% after two years. According to Peter Field, an emphasis on performance marketing, focusing on short-term sales boosts at the bottom of the marketing funnel, has reduced the budgets (and the impact) of brand-building, top-of-funnel advertising. Performance marketing, ironically, relies on previous attention and mental availability – but it struggles to build that attention itself.

    • Think beyond viewability. In previous publications (e.g. here), we have discussed the important issue of whether an ad that’s “viewable” is actually being paid attention to. According to Dr. Karen Nelson-Field, this is something you can only tell by observing human activity, and the results aren’t pretty. On average, less than one fourth of “viewable” time translates into actual attention. The “viewability gap” between time in view and attention isn’t constant, which makes time in view a very unstable metric. The concept of excess share of voice (ESOV) is based on knowing how much SOV each channel can provide – in other words, how much attention a dollar of spend buys on different platforms. However, time in view doesn’t predict attention because digital platforms work so differently.

    • Platform’s attention elasticity can make or break an ad. Dr. Nelson-Field points out another major issue – the vast majority of budget on digital platforms is spent below the attention-memory threshold. According to her, you need to keep someone’s attention for 2.5 seconds before you have a chance of influencing memory. Around 85% of digital ads don’t do this, based on a survey of 130,000 ad views and 1150 brands. Moreover, it also turns out there are structural issues with some platforms that limit attention even more. Therefore, Dr.Nelson-Field introduced the idea of attention elasticity – the range of attention a platform can deliver. A platform with low attention elasticity has structural limits (driven by its user interface choices) on the level of attention it can generate.

    The implications of attention elasticity are serious for marketers. It acts as a limiter – no matter how strong your creative is, the attention it can generate will depend on the platform it appears on. Dr. Nelson-Field proved this by measuring attention for the same ads across multiple platforms. In each case the platform’s attention elasticity was the main determinant of attention. For creative quality to make the difference we all know it can, it has to be seen on platforms with high elasticity of attention.

    • Right-brained vs. left-brained elements and attention.Great creative is suffering from squeezed budgets and attention-killing platforms. As System1’s Orlando Wood reminds, great creative is still the most effective way to drive the kind of attention that builds strong brands. And here comes the concept of the brain’s hemispheres. The idea of the right- and left-brains doing different things has been rightly discredited, however what remains valid is that the two sides of the brain don’t do different things – they do things differently. And one of the things they do is pay attention to the world differently. It turns out that right-brained elements like human interaction, narrative, and a strong sense of time and location are very effective at capturing attention. Mr. Wood summarises these elements as Character, Incident and Place, concluding that an ad which contains them is much more likely to push audiences over the memory-attention threshold.

    • Attention and brand building in difficult times.According to the mentioned industry experts, in a recession, brand-building advertising gets more important, not less. This may seem counter-intuitive, butin difficult economic circumstances, people have less money to spend right now – they are making cutbacks and looking to reduce spending. Performance marketing – which is all about stimulating an immediate sale – is less efficient in hard times because there’s simply not as much economic activity happening. Brand-building, though, is more efficient. Disposable income falls in a recession, but brand-building is about securing a share of future spending by building attention. When recessions turn into recoveries, history shows that it’s the brands who don’t “go dark” who recover faster and stronger.

    Novelty Media, via SmartAdd, has developed a mobile media technology framework for video and static content delivery endorsed by Mobile Operators. Our innovative media channelprovides high elasticity of attention and unprecedented visibility for your brand. It allows your creative to cut through the noise and shine when viewed on the mobile’s screen.Thus, the undivided attention of our audience consisting solely of humans – verified mobile subscribers – is focused exclusively on your brand message. Keep following our Marketing Bites and reach out to us to learn more about our solution.