Why Your Ad Isn't Receiving Enough Attention; Our Chat with Klaas Weima

Daan van der Wiele

Daan van der Wiele

Head of Marketing and Product

We sat down with Klaas Weima, author of the bestsellers: ‘Earned Attention’, ‘Webvertising’ and ‘Aandachtsmarketing’. He is also owner of the award winning creative agency Energize, which helps brands create smarter campaigns to earn the attention they deserve. The agency has worked with some of the largest renowned brands in the world, including: Heineken, Walt Disney, Samsung and Unilever. 

Additionally, he runs the podcast CMO talk, in which he interviews chief marketing officers about their job and the marketing industry. In this blog we cover the hot topic of attention, how does Klaas view attention? How will we view attention in the future? Let’s find out.

The early days

Seventeen years ago, Klaas founded his creative agency because he noticed an opportunity within the market. It was 2005, the internet was growing rapidly, but Klaas found it surprising that online advertising was very linear and old-fashioned. There was a huge opportunity to utilize the technology that the internet provided to improve online advertising through developing advertisements based on relevance. With his agency, Klaas set the goal to help marketers become more relevant. 

During that time, Klaas also visited the United States to attend large-scale events by pretending to be a blogger and managed to get into contact with the people he looked up to: Seth Godin, Tim O'Reilly, and Philip Kotler. He had compelling conversations with these prominent figures of the industry, but found it a shame that no other people could hear them. 

He wanted a way to share the conversations with the world. So he started his first podcast: spark host, with the goal to give something back to the marketing industry by recording and broadcasting these fascinating chats. After six years, he transformed the podcast into a dutch version called CMO talk.

The podcast aims to provide engaging stories that inspire the marketing community. This monthly series is centered around top chief marketing officers and CCOs with a marketing background, they share their unique stories and experiences. Previous guests include: Patrick Stal (Uber), Karlijn in ‘t Veld (Coca-Cola), Erik-Jan Gelink (Transavia) and Martijn Smelt (Philips). 

Importance of attention is increasing

For both business and podcasts, Klaas truly believes that you have to earn attention. If you can create a positive balance by providing knowledge, value and relationships then you will earn attention. If you legitimately earn attention, you will establish authority and name in your field of work. 

Attention has become an intriguing concept since it never in history has been as scarce as it is today. So currently, marketers have a problem: how to get attention, and if they have the attention, how to retain it?  

Why the scarcity? 

The digital age has led to an increase of demand for attention. The empirical observations show advertising inflation, based on the difference in consumption and supply of advertisements. The discrepancy between the two shows that consumption has stagnated for a long time, yet the supply quantity of media/ads has skyrocketed. 

The consensus is that if we produce content for social platforms, we become relevant. However, in the last five years, the content supply has increased by 500% while the consumption level (demand) has flatlined. A colossal gap exists between produced content and consumed content.

It means that most marketers are falling into a trap, Klaas calls it the negative attention spiral. If their content is not getting enough attention, they will start producing even more content. The result is an even lower click-through rate, retention, and more pressure on the bottom line. 

The attention triggers

To know how to more reliably attract attention Klaas conducted research together with his creative agency Energize and the VU Amsterdam. The research focused on top-down attention, the attention you directly steer and control. Based on this research the team found six triggers that help on a proposition- and communication level, attracting and retaining attention:

1. Emotion: 
Triggering the feelings of your audience will engage them more, this could be done with humor, joy, sympathy and admiration. 

2. Help:
Make the life of your customer easier. Consumers like to pay attention to tools that help and provide answers to their questions. 

3. New: 
The term plays to our interests as humans. We are social and interested in the newest things and information.

4. Inclusion: 
People are social beings and thus like to be part of a group, we will go through a lot of effort to be included and don’t want to be left out. 

5. Status: 
Providing status with a product or service will draw attention, people value to differentiate and rank high amongst their peers.

6. Reward: 
Free products, discounts, loyalty bonuses, etc. Anything that provides the feeling of reward to a consumer will attract.

The strategy of attention triggers was originally devoted to attracting consumers, but they will work within any scenario to draw attention. 

For example, Klaas had to contact Gary Vee for a picture and quote approval for his book. Unfortunately, After 2 to 3 weeks there was no reply, meanwhile the deadline of his book was approaching. Klaas thought long and hard about how he could get an answer and finally he decided to use the inclusion trigger to get the attention of Gary. 

The only thing different was the email subject line, he changed it to: Seth Godin said yes. Within five minutes, Klaas received a reply. Seth Godin and Gary Vee are two leading marketing gurus who disagree with each other frequently, so by using the inclusion trigger, Klaas piqued the interest of Gary immediately.

The earned attention canvas

Klaas and his agency created the earned attention canvas which aims to help organizations earn attention by providing a set plan through four building blocks:

  • Brand
  • Market strategy
  • Goals
  • Communication

Nowadays, the problem in the industry is that 80% of companies only focus on communication, while all four building blocks are of equal importance. For the first step, you need to know what you stand for as a brand and how you are relevant in a consumer's life. For the second step, market strategy, you need a thorough understanding of your target audience. The third step requires you to set clear goals of what you want to achieve with your brand. The final fourth step necessitates you to determine how to effectively communicate your brand relevance.

An interesting example is about a large international consumer goods company, it had a big internal debate on if they should put a sustainability certification logo in their commercial, after a long time they decided to go ahead and include it. However in the final version of the commercial the placement of the logo was ineffective. Ad testing showed that consumers did not actually notice the logo. Evidently, they did not put enough thought into the final building block: communication. 

The future of attention

To round off, what is the future of attention in the marketing industry? Klaas sees two distinct tools becoming more important. Firstly the use of artificial intelligence for predicting and measuring effectiveness of creative work and secondly the combination of data and creativity for design.

1. Predicting with Artificial Intelligence
Klaas believes that the artificial intelligence revolution has only just started. Predictive AI-based results for ad testing are already available and are becoming more accessible for agencies and marketers. The value that it creates by being able to analyze visual attention and adjust your advertisements on the fly is significant, and will only become better. With this continued improvement, the importance and capabilities for AI-based predictions will only increase.

2. Combining data & intuition 
We now live in a world where it is possible to make decisions based on data and intuition. These two disciplines will have to cooperate in harmony. Building work upon experience, intuition, and gut feeling while also backing it up with data will be crucial in the future. Think of it as yin and yang; both are needed.

Incorporating science into marketing practices can be difficult. From our experience we see some brands starting to integrate a scientific-based approach, but unfortunately the majority still only goes for gut feeling. Big corporations have started building hybrid teams, where data scientists and creative people work in conjunction, which is a step in the right direction. 

For the future it is essential to build the bridge between science and practice. Purely data-based products will lose the soul and authenticity of the brand, while a group of only creatives will be unguided. The current industry is full of entities who do not validate their work with scientific research. If you can build your brand based on science, you will acquire a strong value proposition. 

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