Advertising psychology in an AI era

How many times have you checked your phone today? You might have a couple of notifications on LinkedIn (better check that now, eh?). Someone’s posted an interesting video, should probably watch that. There might be other similar videos that are worth a watch… then you could quickly Google it to find out more. Perhaps check your messages again?

You’ve probably already got the hint – our attention span is in crisis. With access to so many different channels on numerous devices at all times, it’s never been easier for us to get consumed by information or distracted. Furthermore, our devices and apps are designed to grab our attention – taking us from one notification to another in an attempt to get us addicted.

The age-old attention deficit  

The psychology behind marketing and reaching consumers is nothing new. In 1895, advertising trade magazine Printers’ Ink wrote: "Probably when we are a little more enlightened, the advertisement writer, like the teacher, will study psychology. For, however diverse their occupations may at first sight appear, the advertisement writer and the teacher have one great objective in common - to influence the human mind.” The key questions will always be; ‘what drives a customer to purchase something they’ve seen in advertising, and how does a brand guide them along the traditional "attention, interest, desire, purchase" journey?'

The answer is relevance and personalisation. But in a world of pop-ups, 60-second viral videos and retweet notifications, the consumer attention deficit is deeper than ever. Brands are trying to be seen and heard while their audiences have plenty more to look at. Industry experts estimate that the average person is now exposed to around 5000 ads a day. So how does your business reach audiences in this new online ‘attention economy’?

Right place, right time, right message

We all choose to look at and read content that is presented at the right moment and resonates with us. The difference today is that brands can now deliver adverts to the right consumer with impressive accuracy, using the right creative and in the right context so they can inspire action.

There is no excuse for intrusive ads anymore, and yet 91% of consumers say they are more irritating today than two years ago. We have the technology to ensure they're engaging or even enjoyable rather than annoying - or ignored. They should feel like a gentle nudge to take action and - most importantly for marketers - demonstrate an understanding of who the customer is and what they like. An advert for match tickets delivered to a football fan at the perfect time in the right location is likely to inspire a purchase. Deliver the same ad to someone who prefers cycling, surfing or knitting and it’s going to fall flat - especially if they’re halfway through the Oxfordshire countryside at the time.

Technically speaking

Artificial intelligence (AI) is making this personalised and relevant approach simpler, immediate and more cost-efficient, with the ability to deliver ads at the perfect moment at scale. It’s helping to end the guesswork. We can now use a combination of first and third-party data to identify the individuals who'll be interested in products and services.

In addition, self-service platforms offer ‘dynamic creative’, intelligent automation that creates multiple ad sizes and formats, covering every major device, all without the need for human intervention. The dynamic creative optimisation process picks out the product most likely to be successful, dropping it into the right ads at the right time for the right user. And it’s doing this thousands of times, every second.

One step ahead

So while traditional methods are stuck working out the ‘attention’ part of the approach, AI is allowing advertisers to focus much more on the ‘desire’ stage – and providing a short-cut on every brand’s long and sometimes complex journey to a purchase.

The attention economy isn’t going away. If anything, consumer attention will become ever more dwindling. But the technology that’s often distracting them is also the advertising industry’s saviour. While the psychology behind advertising isn’t changing, the technology most definitely has. AI-powered data enablement, media execution and creative optimisation are giving advertisers and consumers precisely what they want – it’s time for marketers to pay attention to it.

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