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What Marketers Must Do to Win Consumers' Dwindling Attention

What Marketers Must Do to Win Consumers' Dwindling Attention

J. Walker Smith

What Marketers Must Do to Win Consumers' Dwindling Attention

Marketers ask a lot. They expect consumers to pay attention to their messages and then come to them to transact business, which means that consumers spend more than money to shop and buy. Consumers also spend time and attention, also known as the “currency of engagement.” This is a real expense for consumers.

The central challenge facing brands is that consumers cannot spend as much currency engaging with marketing as they once did. It looks like marketing resistance, but it’s not. Rather, it’s an engagement cost of time and attention that consumers simply can’t afford anymore.

Worries about consumer engagement have been heightened by the growth of ad-blocking apps. Ad-blocking apps may be recent, but the phenomenon of skipping ads is not. Harvard Business School professor Thales Teixeira compiled data from studies going back to the late 1980s and found that the percentage of TV ads people watch attentively has dropped steadily from almost 100% decades ago to less than 20% today. Whatever the medium, consumers are doing everything they can to spend as little of their currency of time and attention as possible on marketing.

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J. Walker Smith

J. Walker Smith is chief knowledge officer for brand and marketing at Kantar Consulting and co-author of four books, including Rocking the Ages. Follow him on Twitter at @jwalkersmith.​