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Attention please!

Jane Priest, Teaching Fellow

Faculty Blog

boat billboardWhile there is no real agreement on how many advertisements we are exposed to every day, the general consensus is: it’s a lot. Most probably hundreds, maybe even thousands. But one thing is for sure, we don’t give many of them much attention.

Having said that, once you’re looking for something specific, it’s interesting how many relevant ads you do start to notice. Thinking of buying a new camera? All of a sudden useful information is everywhere –   a bus ad informing you of a new model, an email reminding you a sale is on.

Because humans are exposed to so much information, we need to be selective in what we pay attention to. This ‘perceptual vigilance’ means we screen out irrelevant information and pay attention to messages that are useful and relevant (see Marketing and Consumer Behaviour texts).

So, do we notice these messages more because we’re in now the market, or, do marketers know we’re in the market and directly target us? Announce you’re engaged on Facebook and you’ll be bombarded with banner ads pushing everything from tiaras to honeymoons. But can outdoor advertising be so responsive?

It seems yes. A shift is occurring from traditional paper and neon posters to digital media, which means marketers can vary messages by time of day, be responsive to events and even use cameras to tailor messages to age and sex. All this is particularly effective because when you’re out and about you can’t just turn off ads like you would with TV.

As outdoor media becomes more sophisticated, marketers are also finding new and quirky ways to grab our attention. And if that doesn’t cut through the clutter, just make it big!

What’s the best outdoor ad you’ve seen?