Human Attention and the Next Phase of Media
A note from Joe Marchese, Executive Chairman and Build Partner
What we give our attention to, or what co-opts our attention, shapes the people we become. What seizes a society’s collective attention defines culture. We see the best and worst examples of this in the news daily. All of this reinforces that attention is the world’s most valuable resource.
This is why Human Ventures is leading an investment in Adelaide and I will be joining the Board: We can’t value people’s attention, the world’s most valuable resource, if we aren’t measuring it properly.
Advancements in advertising (the theoretical market for human attention) have been overly focused on audience demographics, targeting who you serve an ad to, at all costs. Not only does this have all sorts of privacy (personal conversations following you around the web much?), functional (you just bought that item, still seeing ads for it for days later?) and user experience (ever see the same ad 100 times?) failures, but all the audience data in the world means nothing without attention. Over-investment in audience without attention will get you correlation without causation. Put simply: Sure, that person you “served” an ad to bought your product eventually, but it wasn’t your ad that caused it. They might not have even seen it… (more on attribution spoofing to come).
By definition, customer acquisition is the life blood of a company (startups spend almost half of all venture capital dollars on Facebook, Google and Amazon marketing — in a tighter economic environment, this spend shrinks, coinciding with higher demand for quality advertising). The only thing that brings down a company’s customer acquisition cost (CAC) over time is its brand. Surprisingly, this is true in B2B in many of the same ways it is in B2C.
But what is brand? Brand is perceived shared cultural belief about a company or product. That means it is not just what I think about a brand that defines that brand to me, it is also what I think other people think about that brand that defines it for me. I know, that’s a lot. Will write more on that in the future.
Quality brands are built on the quality of their product or service, first and foremost, but also on the quality of the shared cultural narrative about their product(s). And while a brand is built over thousands of direct and indirect interactions, the role of good advertising is to contribute to a brand’s story at scale. It is impossible to tell a story without attention.
If attention is the world’s most valuable resource, storytelling is the best use of the world’s most valuable resource. Storytelling gives us everything from religion to meme culture. Most great founders are great storytellers. Before they even get to the functional practice of marketing and advertising, every founder needs to paint the picture of what they want to build to attract resources (aka money and other talented Humans). Good brand advertising simply scales the storytelling around a founder’s vision.
Besides attention being the key ingredient to all businesses scaling (as if that wasn’t enough), fixing media means fixing what we measure and reward. Media business models that focus on quality over quantity can only thrive if we measure for quality. Which means respecting people’s time and attention starts with being able to measure the quality.
The Attention Economy is something every company at Human Ventures, and every Fortune 500, needs to understand. Reducing wasted advertising spend, while building value of Brand. Adelaide’s mission to better measure attention is a key building block in this area. Excited to work with the team on what comes next.