To communicate effectively, we must match the chosen medium of engagement
By Rowly Bourne
To communicate effectively, we must match the chosen medium of engagement

MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller notes that our brains are

“not wired to multitask well… when people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost.”

Simply put, our brains are designed to focus on one thing at a time and ‘multitasking’ makes it more difficult to filter out irrelevant information – reducing the efficiency and quality of our work.

Furthermore, according to a report published in the Journal of Neuroscience, people who are focused on visual tasks can’t hear what’s going on around them because hearing and vision tap the same brain regions.

Researchers have dubbed this hearing deficit ‘in-attentional deafness’. Study co-author Nilli Lavie, a professor of psychology and brain science at University College London says:

“You may think that the person is ignoring you, but their brain just can’t respond to your voice. So you shouldn’t take it personally.”

My wife constantly tells me off because she thinks I’m ignoring her, and for years I’ve been telling her that I simply didn’t hear – finally, some research to back me up.

I do hope she reads this article!

So what about advertising?

Well… if you look at the media world, it would appear we’ve missed a trick.

Advertising remains happy to spend millions on being the second medium – brands are still happy to share the attention of the consumer, and pay for the privilege. All while the consumer is engrossed in the content or task they have chosen to engage with.

If you look at all the content mediums available to advertisers, video can be found on almost all of them: digital written content, search, outdoor, digital audio.

Camera filming
Photo courtesy of i love simple beyond from pexels

The cynic in me might suggest that media owners are keen on video because it achieves a higher yield, or that creative agencies get paid more to produce a video advert than any other medium. It could even be that having spent a fortune on the video advert, the advertiser decides it’s better value to use the existing video than have other assets made.

That being said, the founder of Unruly, Sarah Wood, interviewed here on Secret Leaders Podcast is adamant that advertising should match the medium, whether VR, TV or AR. Even with her vested interest in selling video ads on news sites.

So perhaps I am just a cynic.

The industry focus is elsewhere.

As a whole, the industry has chosen to focus on audience targeting – a decision that has led to advertising deposing bankers as public enemy number one. No mean feat!

The point of this article, though, is not to debate whether brands have got the split of budget between media buying and creative wrong. Or whether creative agencies recommend video over others, because they can charge more.

For better or for worse, the big tech companies, large VC investment and marketing budgets seem to have convinced the industry that data matters more than creative. It’s true, data is important.

The point is – if someone is on a mission, any change of medium is just a distraction – and is going to have little impact on them, if any.

The creative medium is as important


Next time you are checking your media buyers have bought the right audiences, ask yourself if you have done the same from Creative with regards to medium.

Think about your customers’ mindset – what space are you intruding on to engage with them.

  • If they’re reading, give them something to read.
  • If they’re watching TV, give them something to watch.
  • If you’re funding their access, don’t be shy, this is a value exchange.

Don’t buy media that competes with other mediums – especially when that other medium is what the consumer has chosen to engage with.

And if you ignore me…

If you decide to go with video regardless, make sure it can be effective if delivered:

  • In silence
  • In a six second environment
  • Within written content
  • On mobile
  • Between levels on games
  • On dodgy internet connections or 3G
  • The few seconds it takes me to fight my way from the turn style to the escalator at Waterloo
  • In my pocket as I listen to music via wireless headphones

And if your video isn’t going to work in all of the above environments – then maybe, just maybe, you go back to Creative to deliver for the relevant mediums!

Get in touch.

We hear you.

Thanks for getting in touch. Someone will get back to you as soon as possible.


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