How to Hook Consumers' Attention in the Era of Short Attention Spans
Jul 03, 2017

How to Hook Consumers’ Attention in the Era of Short Attention Spans

With consumers receiving thousands of digital messages a day, it’s no wonder our attention spans have decreased. But, as a business, how do you bring in consumers who are quickly growing tired of paying attention to ads? We’ve got the insight to make sure your next spot can hook consumers’ attention.

How consumers think

Information overload makes it harder for any brand to hook consumers’ attention at all. Many consumers now turn to technology, like ad blockers, to eliminate the seemingly never-ending stream of advertisements.

For those who still see your ads, various studies have shown that a brand has around 8 seconds to catch their attention before they move on. With many of the shortest digital spots lasting from 15-30 seconds, and TV spots lasting from 30-60 seconds, that means most consumers won’t watch even half of your spot before their minds start wandering. While this attention span can increase depending on the activity, commercial watching continue to be a task that many consumers ignore.

Working with these numbers, you only have a few seconds to capture someone’s attention. If you can’t captivate them, and captivate them early, you can almost guarantee that their mind (and wallets) have moved on. But with so many ads in so many places, how can you guarantee yours is the one that stands out? We’ve gathered our best tips and ideas to make sure consumers continue watching. Read on to start planning your attention-grabbing commercial!

How to grab their attention

  1. Be unexpected.

Many commercials spend those precious first few seconds building up to the story they’re going to tell. The problem lies in buildups that take too long and don’t immediately throw some sort of question out that the audience wants to solve. Confusion can be a great way to get your audience on board. If you can give them details they want to make sense of, they’ll watch the rest in hopes of making it all make sense. It’s a double-edged sword though; you also have to make enough sense so that the consumer isn’t overwhelmed. The Old Spice commercials do a great job of this by immediately addressing the consumer and then throwing a lot of random scenarios at watchers. Consumers continue watching because they want to see how this all gets resolved. Do the unexpected, and you’ll have their attention from beginning to end.

  1. Evoke emotion.

Who can turn away from a commercial that makes them extremely sad or extremely joyous? Almost no one. There’s a reason those sad dog commercials work. When you evoke an emotion in someone, especially a negative one, people want to resolve that emotional response to return to their normal emotional state. That’s why fear and sex sell so well; they elicit responses from those who are looking to immediately fulfill or negate that emotion. We’re not saying that every commercial you release should make people cry or fear for their lives. However, emotion should be a powerful tool in your arsenal. Use it appropriately.

How to Hook Consumers’ Attention in the Era of Short Attention Spans

  1. Personalize it.

Customers want to buy products and support brands who they feel align with their lifestyles. There’s a reason your company spent some time doing target market research. Knowing who your consumers are makes personalizing content to them much simpler. If you can prove to customers that you identify with them, then they’ll feel better about identifying with you. Coke did a great job with this through their summer “Share a Coke” campaign. They took something as impersonal as soda and put names and relationship labels on the bottles to connect to their consumers. If soda can find a way to be personal, we’re sure your brand won’t have a problem.

  1. Be straightforward and simple.

Don’t make things overly complicated. Any spot should focus on one key message. All of the elements in the commercial need to revolve around one idea. If you to hook consumers’ attention, you need to make it very clear to them what they’re watching. Use visuals that make sense and don’t make things too text-heavy. Be purposeful with everything that is shown in your commercial, and your consumers will easily track with you, making them more inclined to keep watching.

  1. Let them know who you are.

Have you ever watched a super clever commercial only to realize you can’t even remember what company it’s for? Many brands put so much stock into the messaging and imagery behind their commercial that they only think to throw in their brand name and logo as an afterthought. Don’t be those brands! Incorporate your brand name and logo throughout the video, or at the very least, have it be one of the first things consumers see. No one wants to watch a commercial and still have to guess at the end whose spot it was. Get your name in there early so consumers remember you throughout the commercial, not just as a fleeting thought at the end.


Would you like to learn more about how to hook consumers’ attention, or about any other video topic? Reach out to IDR for additional information and answers to all your questions. You’ll discover why we’re Orange County’s top producer of TV commercials, infomercials, and online videos for a wide range of businesses, organizations, and brands.



Jul 19, 2017

Thanks, great article.

Jul 25, 2017

Glad you enjoyed it!

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