Friday, March 07, 2014

The Long Of Keeping It Short

An article ran in the trades today with the headline, Marketers Should Keep It Short In 2014.

The author of the article was quoting an MIT study that indicated that consumers can decipher what an ad or logo is saying in about 13 milliseconds.

The conclusion by this author is that this indicates the value of short-timed messaging.


I have no doubt that MIT’s findings are correct.  What the hell, they’re MIT.  

But all this research really tells us is that the intuitive brain works faster than anyone thought.*  MIT originally thought it would take one-tenth of a second.  This latest research says the brain actually works ten times faster.

But is this a reinforcement that we should then be keeping our advertising messages short?

What this author appears to be doing is mistaking categorization with attention span.

They are not the same thing.  You see an ad or commercial – and through all the things that comprise that ad or commercial – you create an immediate response.

I will go forward with this.  Or, I won’t.

This is true when we first meet people as well.  But just because we quickly categorize something, it has no bearing on our attention to that something.

If “it” goes into the “in” category, we will pay a lot of attention to it.  In fact we will keep paying attention until it no longer interests us.  Why would we want to keep that message short?  In fact, since we have someone’s attention, wouldn’t the argument be to keep that person engaged as long as possible?

The author then goes on to say that because of this, advertisers should make their brand visible right from the start.  This is the opposite of how the human mind works.

Showing a logo or brand says, “Hi, I’m an ad.”  Which gives a person even more reason to put that message in “out” category.  Obviously, the author figures since we have such a short attention-span, showing the brand right at the get-go at least creates some brand awareness.

The author then goes on to say, “Don’t sweat the details.  Users won’t notice minor imperfections.”


Didn’t his article start by saying we notice everything in 13 milliseconds?  This would include minor imperfections, wouldn’t it?

It’s by not sweating the details that gives people permission to put an ad or commercial into the “out” category.

Yes, in 13 milliseconds.

Here’s my question.  When did people who don’t believe in the power of creativity get into the advertising business?


Stupid question.  And, no you don’t need to be from MIT to figure that out.

*The brain has two systems for decision-making.  The first system that goes into action is the intuitive system – it’s lightning fast, implicit, effortless, what some say is our brain on “autopilot”.  Up to 90% of our decision are made by this “autopilot.”  The second system that goes into action after the intuitive system is our calculating brain.  This is slow, explicit, effortful.  A great book on this subject is by Phil Barden.  It’s called “Decoded.  The Science Behind Why We Buy.”

No comments:

Post a Comment