How to Make Sure Your Ads Aren't Ignored

Do you think of yourself as someone who is adept in the art of evading advertisements? Have you ever wondered how many advertisements slip through your defenses without being noticed consciously? You're not the only one. Psychologists have asked questions like this before.

Something that the psychological community of researchers understands is that humans are hardwired to pay attention to things and that our emotions determine what we pay attention to. That means many of our decisions regarding whether to watch or overlook an ad are made unconsciously. That might paint a picture of a lazy, sheepish human race but since emotions are an important survival mechanism for us, you could say that good advertisers are just plugging into an adaptation that resulted from countless millenia of evolution; something that we can't control easily. Something we wouldn't have survived without. At any rate, a good advertisement can override whatever you're consciously thinking about.

Therefore, to answer the titular question, everyone pays attention to ads because we're all hardwired to do so. That doesn't mean there's nothing else to it, though. Some types of advertising are more effective than others. An article from Psychology Today points out a few things that are particularly effective in grabbing our attention, so to speak.

  • Surprise: Effective advertisers disrupt expected patterns. Psychology Today points to Old Spice's commercials as a perfect example. This one helped Old Spice increase sales by 27% in 6 months! See how the character in the ad guides you through the unexpected (surprising) progression of the video?

  • Novelty: Dopamine is produced when the brain takes in novel stimuli. Take this Squatty Potty commercial as an example of just how novel things can get. (WARNING: video contains bizarre, maybe even disturbing, images). 

  • Babies: Another hardwired response in humans are the positive emotions we feel towards the youngest of us. We all know babies have been a staple in all kinds of commercials, from online stock trading platform ads to natural spring water ads.

Combine any of the elements above and you will multiply the attention-grabbing potential of any ad. Remember the E*Trade baby investor? That's a novel baby, if we've ever seen one.

What about different media?

There's also a different probability of attention payment for each medium. In other words, we are likely to pay more or less attention depending on where we see the ad. The Harvard Business Review compares cinema, television, mobile phones and P2P sharing in this report. As you'd expect, ads at the cinema are subject to much more attention than other media.

Can you teach yourself to ignore commercials?

Well, you might not even have to. There is plenty of ad-blocking software to take the ads off of your computer and smartphone screens. You also have the option to subscribe to your TV programs. DVR and services like Hulu and Netflix allow the viewer to do away with ads completely.

We haven't been able to find a lot of information about the psychology of manually ignoring ads. We do know that people do it. Some of us simply mute the TV when the commercials begin. Others watch the commercials from a critical viewpoint, asking themselves questions like "what kind of person is this ad meant for?", "Am I being targeted?", and "Does the advertiser misunderstand who I am?" Be warned, though. If you do this, you may find yourself becoming irritated with the messaging you hear. Don't take it personally.

The Kind of Ads People Don't Ignore

One kind of ad people voluntarily pay attention to is called PPC. PPC, or "Pay Per Click" advertising only shows up when the viewer is looking for the product or service being advertised. This is made possible by search engines like Google, which use keywords to place ads. A keyword is a word or phrase an advertiser uses to identify the right viewer. In short, when you search for "home stereo" at, you'll see ads from advertisers who think you're looking for their products or services. They've arranged for Google to advertise to you when you enter the keyword "home stereo." Sometimes people say this isn't advertising at all because the viewer searched for the information, product or service. It wasn't simply placed somewhere in hopes that the right person would see it. PPC tends to be an effective means of generating sales.

isoTree specializes in targeted PPC lead generation. When you're looking for another weapon for your sales and marketing arsenal, call on us.


David Kalla