Attention Revolution: Why Marketing’s Law of Double Jeopardy applies to attention, too

Apr 26, 2022

First published by Mediatel News on 26 April 2022.

The implications of these Double Jeopardy patterns are striking to both brands and those intending to integrate attention as a key metric of ROI.

Andrew Ehrenberg was a professor and a statistician who, for over half a century, contributed to marketing literature on systematic patterns in buyer behaviour. His work has been shown to accurately describe how consumers behave and how brands perform across a very broad range of conditions.

Ehrenberg fathered the concept that marketing is less magic more science. Those who have heard of the Law of Double Jeopardy have been exposed to some of his work.

Double Jeopardy describes the relationship between the size of a brand and the loyalty of its customer base in the context of a “double punishment” where small brands not only have fewer customers who buy them, but these customers are also less loyal.

This is where the science comes in. The Law of Double Jeopardy is generalisable across conditions and is therefore highly predictable, meaning marketers can safely make decisions off the back of its reliability. As such, blue chip brands have long moved on from marketing methods based on intuition and triage and use Ehrenberg’s mathematical rules as the bedrock of their marketing planning.

Double Jeopardy has been found to hold in the media context too.

For example, smaller TV channels have fewer viewers who also watch them less frequently, than bigger TV channels.

Equally, smaller digital platforms have fewer subscribers who also view/engage less often, than bigger digital platforms.

So, given my background, you might expect that I have been looking for some time at how generalisable laws might apply in attention measurement.

And, after many years and many millions of gaze-tracking points, I can safely say YES, there are Double Jeopardy patterns in attention.

The implications of these patterns are striking to both brands and those intending to integrate attention as a key metric of return on investment.

Here are four to ponder:

Attention Elasticity

Law: Lower attention platforms also have smaller attention elasticity limits.

Explanation: Attention Elasticity is the difference between the lowest average number of attention seconds and the highest average number of attention seconds typically delivered by that platform. And the functionality of the platform determines this range. For example, scrollable formats suffer from a smaller attention elasticity, where others with less distracting features, naturally have a looser attention elasticity.

Implication: When attention elasticity is smaller the ability for creative to extend outside of this norm is low.

This has huge implications on creative strategy and performance. It means attention to good creative will decline in line with attention performance. It means the platform drives the amount of attention possible, not the creative. It also means pre-testing tells us little about performance in market unless undertaken on the intended platform.

Attention Switching

Law: Lower attention platforms also have more people who switch between active, passive and non-attention more often.

Explanation: Active attention is when a human looks directly at an ad, passive attention is when eyes are near the ad but not the ad (i.e. the screen and/or content), non-attention is neither looking at the screen or the ad. Attention switching is an artefact of distraction and kryptonite to ad impact.

Implication: The level of switching is not only different by platform/formats (caused by its functionality), but it also differs at the individual human level (caused by human behaviour).

This is why understanding the interplay between active and passive attention is complicated and why aggregated one-size-fits all attention metrics based on viewability tags don’t cut it (see my recent article on the Shape of Attention and how individual level human behaviour modeled with platform functionality is the future of prediction).

The Attention-Viewability Gap

Law: Lower attention platforms also have a wider attention-viewability gap.

Explanation: The attention-viewability gap is the difference between assumed human-engaged impressions and actual human-engaged impressions.

Put another way, the difference between viewable and viewed. In an earlier article I quantified the average gap and reported that around 75% of ads that you have paid for, against the currency you trust, don’t deliver the value you believe them to have. But this gap differs drastically by platform and format.

Implication: When the attention-viewability gap is not consistent, it makes it even harder for advertisers to know what they are dealing with below the surface of the failing currency. It has significant flow on effects to any system or model that relies on equitable impressions such as share-of-voice planning or market mix modelling.

Attention and Mental Availability

Law: Lower attention platforms drive less mental availability for you and disproportionately more mental availability for your competitor.

Explanation: Mental Availability (also known as “salience”) is the Holy Grail measure of brand strength. High mental availability is when lots of people are aware of your brand, knows what it does and what it stands for. Big brands have higher mental availability than small brands.

Implication: The ability to gain MA uplift from advertising is tempered by the performance of the platform. This means on low attention platforms misattribution to your competitor is common so creative needs to work harder and more frequency is required.

The Law of Double Jeopardy has been proven a vital part of predicting human consumer behaviour, and as it turns out being able to predict human attention is underpinned by similar mathematical norms.

Understanding these norms, and how they change with boundary conditions, will bring sustainable and enduring attention product solutions to the currency crisis.

This is why this work is so important to us.