Breaking the cycle of distraction


"Distracted from distraction by distraction” – TS Eliot

In recent years, neuro-scientists have been paying attention to how our cognition is changing as a result of the digital age. For one, Nicholas Carr discusses how our ability to remain focused for any length of time has diminished (in his book The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains).

We live in a culture of increasing distraction. Audiences are always connected, have access to multi-screens, multiple devices and, as a result, are overwhelmed by candidates for their attention.

At one end of the spectrum, distraction has created a culture of dumbed-down, flibbertigibbet audiences who are unable to focus on long-form and are constantly distracted. Flip this and we have a highly stimulated audience whose benchmarks for distraction and entertainment are set pretty high.

The onus for brands is nothing new: to hit upon great ideas that have the magic something that will catch on, and capture the imagination and interest of a brand’s desired audiences.

What is new, and constantly evolving, is the breadth of creative and artistic opportunities that the technology and platforms of our distracted culture have made available to brands. Creative types working with brands need to understand not just what lies at the core of the relationship the brand wants and needs to build with audiences, but also the formats that are going to sustain audiences’ interest, stop them being distracted, and subsequently build strong brand affiliation.

The art of creating compellingly watchable content

For brands and video content this means being able to create something compellingly watchable: something that people will be distracted by not distracted from. Largely this comes down to using content to facilitate involvement and an emotional attachment for a brand.

3 Mobile has recently won through the viewing stakes with its Silly Stuff video ads. 3’s The Pony video is an interesting recognition of our distracted culture, but what it delivers is content with substance. 3 has recognised the need to create, not just be, the gateway to silly stuff. And has clearly set out to create an emotional connection through understanding people’s need to sustain their happiness levels through “silly stuff”.

A significant factor in breaking the cycle of distraction comes down to the art of story-telling and the power of narrative to create the magic that leads to emotional attachment.

Previously we’ve talked about The Three Cs (catalyst, conflict and conclusion) of narrative. If brands’ ideas weave a story, people are more likely to stick with you and not flit off to the next item of distraction. Dove consistently seems to deliver content that women identify with and is utterly watchable. The latest Real Beauty Sketches has an idea that delivers Dove’s now well-established positioning, but it also demonstrates how to work long-form content by setting up the challenge and creating anticipation (blind portrait drawing), followed by the conflict (will he, won’t he get a likeness) and concluded with the emotional learning that women naturally underplay their own beauty. Something the majority of women identify with.

Bottom line to any successful content is that unless audiences find it compellingly watchable and emotionally connect with it, there are so many alternative viewing choices that they will easily be distracted away from your brand by something else. If content isn’t truly watchable, it shouldn’t see the light of day, because if it does, it risks becoming content for content’s sake.

Amelia Redding, Planning Director