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man showing his eyes to illustrate human attention span

Human Attention span is getting shorter.

Peter O'Leary 18 Dec 2017 • 2 mins read

Human attention span is now measured at just 8.25 seconds, down from 12 seconds in the year 2000. (For comparison, a goldfish is measured at 9). The shift is attributed to the use of devices and the cluttered world in which we now find ourselves.

In the 1970s it was estimated that we were impacted by 500 brand messages a day (an outrage at the time). Today, estimates range from 6,000 to 30,000 messages a day (an outrage no more)! It highlights that, as Humans, we have developed highly attuned skills in filtering the messages we want to see and hear.

The story doesn’t stop (or start) with attention span. It’s just a good marker for how quickly choices and decisions are being made. The benchmarks today are:

  • 2 seconds to be noticed
    • Grab attention or miss out completely
    • (Nothing tougher, although neuroscience has identified triggers that impact)
  • 8 seconds to fascinate
    • Now that you have my attention draw me in or lose me forever.
    • Emotion trumps rational thinking every day.
  • The decision to engage is made within 20 seconds
    • Captivate me and I’ll stay all day. If I leave it will be for the right reasons, knowing that your offer is not for me. Leaving for the right reasons is ok. Missing out completely means lost sales opportunity possibly forever.

If this is how we Humans behave, what’s the impact on ads and content?

  • Ads connect quickly, especially when using emotional triggers.
    • Brand and creativity that drives likability are key.  
  • Content that is rich and engaging can hold an audience.
    • Game of Thrones is a great example. Long-form content is engaging when it is produced well (i.e. has high production values). It does come at a higher cost, but it does engage and work. The budget balance is often the issue.
  • Context plays a much more significant role in building brand and sales by engaging additional neuro-triggers. 

Marketing is more complex that ever, attention span is one reason, media fragmentation another. We start with Brand - find out more by clicking here.