Digital technologies are changing our attention span, finds Microsoft report

Rebecca Lambert
Rebecca Lambert
By Rebecca Lambert on 08 July 2015
Digital technologies are changing our attention span, finds Microsoft report

A new report by Microsoft Advertising has discovered that 86% of people have one eye on another screen when watching TV, gaming or surfing the web.

Published by Microsoft and brand consultancy Sparkler, the UK report reveals what today’s attention types are and what this means for brands and media agencies.

“On average in the UK we have between 7-9 devices, always connected to the internet and multi-screening,” said Nigel Ashton, retail business director for Microsoft Advertising. “Marketers are therefore all too aware they need to be thinking about making sure their brands are still relevant to consumers with the right message, in the right place at the right time.”

In the report, Microsoft identifies three natural attention modes reflecting consumer use of digital technology and what this means for advertisers.

Ninja mode
These types of people have a high degree of focus and compartmentalise tasks and devices. They’re resistant to moving away from their current task.

Advertising suggestion: develop out of the ordinary or well targeted messaging so they will be prepared to stop what they are doing and take notice.

Pragmatist mode
Pragmatists are comfortable switching and are good at prioritising so will quickly move away from content that isn’t suiting their needs at that moment in time.

Advertising suggestion: be engaging, entertaining and, if possible, interactive to ensure that engagement is maximised.

Ambidextrous mode
These tend to move effortlessly between devices and engage with information from a variety of sources to enhance their enjoyment or productivity.

Advertising suggestion: be short, to the point and cross-platform so that they encounter it on a variety of devices and in a variety of contexts.

The study notes, however, that while consumers have a natural tendency towards one mode of attention, they will adopt another mode to suit different scenarios. So the same consumers could be attention ninjas in the office, pragmatists when they mix work and play, and ambidextrous when they look after their kids.

The types of jobs we have also influence our attention skills. For instance, people who are likely to be office workers or people with longer formal educations tend to have better sustained and selective attention.

Overall, the research suggests that our attention skills are evolving, and this means that advertisers must construct strategies and campaigns that address each attention style and match individual lifestyles.

Visit the Microsoft Attention Spans site to find out more and determine your own attention type.

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