We are in an attention recession and only communications can rescue us

The faster the better, we've always been told: faster-moving queues are definitely good, faster delivery of your online purchase, even better.

Forget fast sex, fast media and fast fashion - slow storytelling is the way to go, argues Trevor Hardy
Forget fast sex, fast media and fast fashion - slow storytelling is the way to go, argues Trevor Hardy

But some things get worse with speed: fast food – bad; fast sex – sub-optimal; fast fashion – never satisfying; and fast media and communications – downright awful.

We are in an age when many people and brands believe they are storytellers.

Stories take time to tell. Products and services need space to communicate. No brand can build equity in six-second increments.

Research has shown that our attention spans are ever-shortening; rather than creating media and communications that pander to fleeting moments, we should fight to create messages and environments that demand time, engagement and reward.

We take a tremendous amount of time to build businesses, craft products, develop strategies and then seem oddly satisfied when someone spends a few fleeting moments with our story while triple-screening.

Beyond the waste and ineffectiveness of fast media, it is just not good for you.

As with fast food, media consumption at speed is bad for our minds, mood and mental health.

In praise of slow media

Snacking is good, but not at the expense of a good meal.

Our media diet can be similarly considered; a little bit of snacking here and there, but we should make time for well-considered, well-crafted, enriching stories.

We should fight for the deeper, longer, richer brand story – the one that will take an investment in time to create and an investment in time to consume. The return for brands will not only be significant, but also long-lasting.

It’s time we thought about time

For decades we’ve known that a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention. We should resist the temptation to create more for the sake of more.

There is an inspiring movement around 'stuffocation' – in our personal lives we have reached peak 'stuff' – and the more stuff we have, the unhappier we become.

Less really is more for brand communications too: the less we say can make for more effective communicators and happier consumers.

The currency in communications and marketing circles is still some version of reach or OTS.

It is difficult to break away from a widely accepted metric, but these measures made sense in times when reaching a massive audience was a feat that few could achieve.

Today, almost anybody can deliver ears and eyeballs.

In the spirit of the old adage 'what gets measured gets made', we should change our benchmarks. 

Today some of the scarcest resources are time and attention. It takes a skilled communicator to capture and hold these.

Say farewell to impressions and to fast-and-fleeting. Embrace channels, stories and campaigns that stop people, engage them, reward them and keep them thinking about your brand or message as the new measures for communications success.

Speed kills many things, including brands. Embrace a slower, more enriching, media diet.

Aim for a disproportionate share of time and attention.

Brands and audiences will thank you. 

Trevor Hardy is CEO of What We Seee

Thumbnail image: ©GettyImages

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