How to Win Attention By Swimming Against The Tide

How to Win Attention By Swimming Against The Tide
August 22, 2018 Richard Brett

22 August 2018: The fight for attention has never been so fierce. The leader of the free world has overcome this problem with a strategy built on fake news, alternative facts and truth that isn’t the truth. That’s obviously not a communications strategy that you could, should or would consider emulating.

And yet there’s great value in finding counter-intuitive ways to communicate with your audience. The opr team has been to the world’s leading creative and technology conferences again this year including Cannes Lions, SxSW, D&AD, E3, CES and CommsCon.  As always, we focused on spotting trends that will help inform your strategies for the year ahead and beyond.

Our findings form the basis of our fourth annual Futures report. It’s our most ambitious yet with 28 trends across five chapters covering everything from society, technology and storytelling to government policy, healthcare, culture and marketing.

But given the incredibly fierce nature of competition for audience attention, I wanted to share three ideas that will help you zig when others zag, to swim against the tide and get noticed for the right reasons. They fly in the face of traditional marketing and communication strategies but they’re already delivering real results for those who’ve been brave enough to explore them.

1. Flawsome – The first of these is to make a distinct move away from the over-messaged, cautious and robotic soundbites to a more open, humble and even vulnerable approach. We’ve all seen politicians and corporate spokespeople skirting around tough questions and refusing to acknowledge problems or accept blame. People are tired of it and they’re voting with their feet. They’re much more likely to be accepting of your failings if you’re prepared to put your hand up when something goes wrong. 

Examples: We loved the brilliant response of our client KFC when it suffered supply chain problems in the UK, using a clever play on words to apologise in a way that was honest and disarming. Fashion retailer ASOS made fun of itself for printing 17,000 bags with a spelling mistake, calling them a limited edition. And rather than trying to present herself as a superwoman, New Zealand Prime Minister has also earned plaudits for being open and humble about the challenges of being a high-profile politician and a new mum.


2. The New Slow – At a time when everything seems to happen at breakneck speed, there’s an emerging trend that taps into our shared desire to slow down a little and make room for reflection. When the norm is short, fast and easy to digest, what can you do to tap into the escapism of long-form, relaxing or even monotonous content? This celebration of things that take a long time to accomplish is a welcome antithesis to the modern age of hyper-information. 

Examples: Inspired by Europe’s slow television movement, SBS offered Australians an escape from the fast pace of modern life with ‘The Ghan’. This three-hour documentary – based on the view from the front of a train meandering through unchanging landscape – was so popular that the broadcaster is planning to follow up with similar shows featuring different modes of transport. We also loved the series of ‘Irresistible and Pointless Trueview Ads’ that our client IKEA ran. One of these, which featured a boy washing dishes, racked up an average view time of more than three minutes. Two out of five people who clicked through stuck around until the end.


3. The Big Not Easy – The last of these three ideas celebrates content that’s difficult to create. These are campaigns packed full of craftsmanship and intrinsic beauty, often celebrating traditions and delivering high audience engagement because of their originality. We’re surrounded by quick and easy communications but there’s clearly great appetite for more deep and meaningful work, which is great news for creatives everywhere.

Examples: There were some outstanding examples at Cannes Lions this year but the BBC’s ‘History Will Be Made’ shone brightest. The British broadcaster used centuries-old Russian embroidery traditions to create a stunning film promoting the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Each frame is an individual piece of needlework illustrating an iconic moment from previous tournaments. It’s also planning a public exhibition with a seven-metre-long wall hanging including every frame from the film. Red Bull’s Stratos, where Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner flew 39 kilometres into the stratosphere, is another great example of this trend.

These three ideas have a couple of things in common. The first is that they’re hard to do. Whether it’s admitting your vulnerabilities, taking the time to slow down or shooting for the stars with an ambitious creative project, they require bravery and commitment. But in a world where winning audience attention is harder than it’s ever been, they’re all strategies worthy of further investigation.

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