Catching and keeping your audience’s attention – every Marketer’s Angst

Published: March 22, 2023

min read

Attention is precious. Capturing it is not easy. Keeping it is a whole different game of chess.

So content which not only attracts the attention of users, but keeps it, is prime property. The longer a user reads your content or watches videos, the higher its value.

The bottom-line is that some content is engaging, while others are not. Some headlines draw the readers in – only for them to lose interest after a few sentences. Some videos attract viewers, but for a very short while, after which it isn’t possible to hold their attention.

A study was done (the New Journal of Marketing study) to study the role language plays in holding the attention of readers / viewers. They did this through a multi-method investigation, using “natural language processing of over 600,000 reading sessions from 35,000 pieces of content, combined with controlled experiments.”

They found that language that was easier to process and that which evoked emotion, held the attention of consumers as opposed to complicated lingo or that which evoked sadness or negative emotion.

Implications for marketers

  • Simple emotional language has a strong impact on the consumption of content.

One of the ad spots that got everyone’s attention during the recent Super Bowl was the spot by the Farmer’s Dog. The commercial starts with this little girl Ava telling her chocolate lab, Bear that she would always take care of him. The spot quickly goes through various phases in Ava’s life – her teenage petulance; the time she leaves for college; her wedding; the start of her new life; her pregnancy; and life with her new baby. It ends with an older Ava and a much older greying Bear staring lovingly at each other and the caption “Nothing matters more than more years together”

The spot packs a lot of punch. The love between a dog and his human is something everyone can relate to. And the pain of losing someone you love, is real. As the spot progresses and both Ava and Bear grow older and older, you almost brace for the inevitable death of Bear – because a dog’s life is just too short. Tapping into this very strong emotion, comes the amazing simple line, “Nothing matters more than more years together”


  • It is not about clicks – it is about sustained attention.

There are reams and reams of articles and blogs talking about how to get the attention of a consumer, and how to sustain it. They are two completely different things. Getting the attention of a consumer is one thing. And the ability to sustain it, is a whole different ball game altogether.

Going back to the Farmer’s Dog commercial, it starts with a little girl and her puppy – making everyone go “awww”. Now that they had your attention, they start to tell you a story - a beautiful story about a girl and her dog, growing together. The 60-second spot tells the story of all the events of a dog’s entire life (almost). As the events race past you, you are riveted – bracing yourself for what you think will be the end of the spot – but it ends of a beautiful tender note with an amazing tagline. Sheer genius!

This is not the only route marketers must take – there are options as myriad as the colors of a rainbow, and then some. But the bottom-line is to keep it simple and packed with an emotion that the audience can relate to.

That’s what helps you keep the attention that you managed to get.


Bill Walker

Bill is a marketing strategist who believes in the power of storytelling. He's known for his creativity, wit, and ability to connect with audiences across all channels. When he's not crafting marketing campaigns, you can find him hiking in the mountains or reading a good book.


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