10 - Valuing Attention

While participation itself is nebulous, attention is rather more straightforward. Brands have been paying for attention all along, in buying advertising. Consider that media advertising involves a brand paying a channel in hopes of reaching the audience, and the channel in turn gave the audience a benefit (free entertainment on their television and radio) in exchange for (presumably) paying attention to the promotional messages.

Attention itself is worth more these days by virtue of supply and demand - there are more companies vying for a lower amount of consumer attention. At the same time, the advertising itself is less effective, as people are turning more to commercial-free formats (listening to iTunes rather than the radio) for which they pay for entertainment and tolerate no promotions, as well as finding ways to avoid promotions (using a DVR to record programs and skip commercials) in those channels that are still driven by the advertising model. Today's social and mobile media provide replacements for traditional channels, but ones that have significant differences.

On minor drawback is that traditional channels relied on programming that appealed to a very specific demographic, enabling advertisers to roughly target a given kind of viewer. Social media is highly personalized and not programmatic - you have no sense of the traditional descriptors of a given user, and must work harder to discover their characteristics. On the other hand, the new media channels provide more useful metrics that speak to the online behavior and interest in topics.

The New Model: Shopper Attention as Currency

Advocacy programs compensate the viewer directly: the shopper agrees to exchange his time an attention to receive some form of benefit paid directly from the advertiser. In essence, attention is a currency that the consumer seeks to trade for goods, and functions as a currency.

Presently, there are only a few attention-for-value providers - the author considers Varolo specifically, a web-based channels for advertisers, who gathers to itself consumers who are willing to watch ads in exchange for money and prizes. (EN: There's a description, but it is of their former and failed business model, so it's not of much interest - the site is defunct except for a "version 2 coming soon" notice, but the firm has communicated no actual plans and may well be dead.)

Another example is the "Bing rewards" program that offers users the ability to earn credits by using the search engine or installing a "bar" on their computer, then clicking through to review offers. The author is cheery about the prospects of this, and industry insiders seem eager (EN: but given the failure of similar programs, it seems an aspiration.)

Interview with Larry Lieberman

The author interviews an online advertising executive:

Case Studies

General Electric's "Tag Your Green" Campaign asked people to submit "photos of wind, light, or water" to raise money for charities to obtain alternative energy solutions, with each photo upload adding to a donation. The campaign was heavily branded to associate GE with environmentalism. An undisclosed number of people spent an average of 150 seconds interacting with their content, uploaded tens of thousands of photos. There was a 69% increase on Facebook shares.

Kia Motors's "Bug Game Tournament" enabled players to earn Zynga game currency for participating in a sponsor-branded online football game. The results are (vaguely) described as giving the firm the ability to reach football fans beyond television advertising and "engage with them in a meaningful way"