What Unlocking the Power of Attention Can Bring to Advertisers


23rd November 2023

Cristina Balanzo

What Unlocking the Power of Attention Can Bring to Advertisers with Dr. Cristina de Balanzo

In an age where our attention is constantly divided by the whirlwind of information and stimuli surrounding us, the quest to capture and hold one’s attention has never been more challenging.

At this year’s Brainy Bar, hosted by Walnut Unlimited, we delved deep into the complex world of attention, seeking answers to the questions that have long intrigued marketers, advertisers, and creatives alike. The overarching message of the event was clear: brands must do better, and to achieve this, they need a deeper understanding of human attention.

Quality Over Quantity

The first of the speakers on the night, Dr. Tim Holmes, in his thought-provoking talk, reminded us that not all attention is created equal. In a world filled with distractions, it’s crucial to understand that sustained attention doesn’t always equate to success. Instead, we should focus on capturing not just eyes (through outdated eye tracking metrics) but also hearts and minds, truly understanding the human aspect. It’s about creating campaigns that provide viewers with a positive reason to keep looking, igniting their interest and engagement.

The Science behind Attention

Our next talk from the brilliant Aoife McGuiness, took us on a journey through the cognitive conflict that unfolds in our brains when we engage with creative work. She emphasised that attention isn’t just about what we see but how we see it. The key lies in crafting content that challenges expectations and engages the brain in novel and rewarding ways.

The Power of Audio

The last of the three talks was from Walnut’s own, Dr. Andy Myers, who brought attention to an often-overlooked aspect of capturing attention—audio. In a world where passive listening is more common than active listening, he debunked the myth that passive attention is less effective. In fact, passive listeners can absorb and retain information just as well as their active counterparts. The key is to match your message to the context, aligning with what your audience expects to hear. It’s all about making your message seamlessly fit into their auditory landscape.

Panel Discussion: Measuring Effectiveness

Following these enlightening talks, a panel discussion featuring Elizabeth Lane (head of research & measurement at IAB UK), Alex Brownsell (head of media at WARC), Sara Gale (director of research and insight at Global), and Steffan Schönherr (vice president brand & media experience and partner at Eyesquare) delved into the practical aspects of measuring attention and its effectiveness in the real world. Their insights shed light on the challenges and opportunities their brands have experienced in utilising attention metrics for campaigns and how their companies have and will continue to tackle this topic.

The Challenge Continues

As we continue to explore the intricate science of attention, one thing becomes evident—creative campaigns that embrace novelty, challenge perceptions, and align with the context in which they’re presented are the ones that truly make an impact. Understanding the complexities of attention and how to harness its power is a journey that marketers and advertisers must embark upon to succeed in our highly fragmented and distraction-filled world. The message is clear: we must do better, and human understanding is the key to achieving this.

In today’s hyperconnected world, capturing and maintaining attention is akin to navigating a minefield of factors, from an individual’s state of mind to their external environment. “Attention is super complex, and sometimes our current way of measuring ads by forcing exposure might not be the only way.” We might have left more questions than answers for now, but I am committed to making our panellists’ wishes come true by working together to address this multimodal aspect of attention. The challenge remains to captivate minds and hearts in a world brimming with stimuli and to transform attention into action.

Brainy Bar: The Science of Attention was also written about in the following Publications: 


Research Live 


Nelson Bostock 

Written by Cristina Balanzo Email Cristina Balanzo

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