"I fear the goldfish more than artificial intelligence"

04 Jul 2018  |  Raymond Snoddy 
"I fear the goldfish more than artificial intelligence"

Back from the Newsworks Effectiveness Summit, Raymond Snoddy digests the key take-outs - for both average humans and colourful cyprinidae

Richard Madden, strategy director at BBH, produced a single explosive idea at the third Newsworks Effectiveness Summit, which is quite a lot.

Madden unveiled three other subsidiary notions around the theme of what keeps him, as an adman, awake at night. He called them the Four Horsemen of the Advertising Apocalypse and three of the Horsemen are already familiar concepts.

There is the increase of alienation and the decline in trust for everything from business to government.

The arrival of the 90-day CMO who insists on tearing everything up in a mad search for action within three months, is another cause of Madden’s sleeplessness, as is The Rise of The Machines.

But it is the advance of the goldfish, or to be more precise, the decline of a key human characteristic relative to the goldfish, that was by far the most telling.

Researchers at the University of Oregon, or Montana, or somewhere - Madden was less than precise with his sources - had proven conclusively that goldfish now had a greater attention span than the average human.

Goldfish can concentrate for eight seconds and modern humans for only seven.

“I fear the goldfish rather more than artificial intelligence,” Madden noted wryly.

Actually the study was in Canada and set up by Microsoft, which must surely shoulder some of the blame. It found that since 2000 the average human attention span had fallen from 12 seconds to eight seconds now. Goldfish have managed to hold on to a credible nine seconds.

But let’s not quibble about a few seconds, it’s the principle of the thing that’s important.

Cunningly the advertising industry seems to have anticipated such a trend and built in loads of spare capacity in advance to cope with continuing human decline: a few video pixels seen for at least two seconds counts as an official viewing.

After the Madden warm-up act the Effectiveness Summit took a deep plunge into a host of charts, numbers, eye-tracking, and analysis of nearly 400 million impressions - enough numbers to drown in for those without doctorates in mathematics, never mind goldfish.

The very short version comes down to a linguistic equation - newsbrands are more viewable and therefore are more viewed, and quality environments are more likely to be trusted and get the right sort of attention. And attention equals sales and a small increase in spending on newsbrands can show dramatic results, particularly in combination with television.

That’s sort of it, but those with extended attention spans and several hundred seconds to spare can browse the underlying rationale on the Newsworks website.

For the rest, here are the short versions accessible to both average humans and goldfish.

- using Lumen research British Gas found that ads on newsbrand sites - compared with the rest - were 30% more likely to be seen, achieved a 261% increase in click rates and a 51% sales uplift

- a year-long study by Newsworks and GroupM UK found that ads appearing in quality online environments are 42% more cost-effective for advertisers based on levels of engagement, viewability, “above the fold” placement and dwell time

- premium placements are important across the board with average uplifts of +10.5% for brand awareness, +19.2% for ad recall, +9.7% for brand perception and +10.3% for recommendation intent

- site choice makes a big difference in driving attention to advertising; The Times leads the way for newsbrands, as viewable impressions have a 54% chance of being seen when displayed on the site. That’s way ahead of Facebook, on which viewable impressions are seen 46% of the time

Newsworks, unsurprisingly, argues not all digital is equal and "programmatic bidding models strip out the context, leading to lower returns and potentially damaging issues around brand health."

The research will go on and on, more case studies more clients, more impressions in the hope that everyone will eventually get the medium and the message.

But right at the end of the Effectiveness Summit, in an almost throw-away line, there was perhaps the most eye-catching announcement of all, although it might have been missed by early leavers.

The national newspapers which fund Newsworks, now including the Daily Express and the Star post Richard Desmond, have got together to launch Impact.

With a single call advertisers will be able to place an ad across the entire national newspaper industry with a reach of 21 million adults.

There is, of course, an abiding mystery about such a simple idea as Impact - why did it take the newspaper industry until now to produce it?

The usual complacency combined with inter-title rivalry presumably. Even a goldfish could have worked out a long time ago that such a move would be positive for the industry overall.

The Effective Summit numbers came hard on the heels of last week’s Pamco statistics which showed that 89 per cent of UK adults interacted with newsbrand content and consumer magazines in a single month.

The new measurement system showed that the total market reach of published brands was 47.2 million adults with 37.3 million people reached through printed titles and 28.6 million digitally by phones. Desktop and tablets were markedly less popular than phones.

Combining reach with attention on quality sites and on to extra sales compared with the medium of online exchange should surely lead to behavioural change in the advertising industry - shouldn’t it?

Richard Madden was asked whether change would come at last.

His one word answer was “Yes.”

But then he was off in a whirl of qualifying clauses that were way beyond the attention spans of either humans or goldfish.

Note: This story was updated on Thursday 5 July at 15:30. The original reported that Newsworks said, in regards to the reach of all UK newsbrands: 'you can’t get such reach and coverage in a single day anywhere else. It would take television four weeks to achieve such reach'.

This is not true, as indicated in the comments below.


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DeniseTurner, Insight Director, Newsworks on 5 Jul 2018
“What a lovely compliment Tess, thank you, I like to be called a proper researcher. It doesn't matter who was supposed to have said what, the truth is that the comment was misquoted and taken out of context - which is why we at Newsworks asked for it to be clarified. And if you read the rest of the piece, we say some lovely things about TV, how TV and news brands are a great combination. As I've said before no channel is an island”
TessAlps, Chair, Thinkbox on 4 Jul 2018
“Thanks young Tim Keen. You got there before even us! Also I can't believe that Denise would have said such a thing; she's a proper researcher and knows that more than 70% of adults watch commercial TV every single day, over 90% every week. The overnight figure for the football was 23.8m btw and that is the average for every single minute of the coverage. Total reach would have been considerably higher.”
TimKeen, Director, Co-founder, SLiK Media Ltd on 4 Jul 2018
“Not sure I agree with Denise's comment about TV's reach ability. Last night's football on ITV1 delivered a live peak Adult TVR of 42 which equates to a reach in excess of 21m. Not bad in 30" rather than 4 weeks as suggested. There was a fairly substantial kids audience delivered as well! All of this with sound and vision, in the main delivered via the biggest of household screens.”


14 Feb 2019 

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