Capturing Attention From the Distracted Mind of The Consumer

February 2017


Hundreds of millions of Americans will be watching Super Bowl 51 this Sunday – some for the football and some for the ads. Those Super Bowl commercials have become an annual American tradition, and among some circles, talked about more often than the actual game itself. Certainly a time when ad avoidance is of little concern. Just think about the Oreo blackout of 2013.

The popularity of Super Bowl commercials extends beyond the live broadcast thanks to the rise of online video sharing. It’s been reported that “[…] YouTube’s top 20 Super Bowl ads have been watched for 440 million minutes — equivalent to watching the game 1.8 million times.” 

Last year, 111.9 million watched the game live on TV, and that’s not including the number of people streaming online or replaying clips after the game.

With massive tune in, combined in-game and pregame/postgame ad spending on Super Bowl 50 accounted to $445 million. Advertisers joining the game this year will pay a reported $5 million, for a coveted 30-second commercial spot during Sunday’s game. That’s $166.6k per second to put your brand on the screen during a time when TV viewership will be at one of its highest peaks of the year – enticing for brands in a time when viewability and ad skipping is of increasing concern.

But what about TV advertising outside of this Sunday’s game? How attentive is the TV audience during commercial breaks on a normal day, and how does that compare to marketing on other platforms? A new study from NPR asked NPR listeners and non-listeners about their own behavior when consuming media found that while audience attention is divided while watching TV and listening to other radio programming, the NPR environment does not drive the same tune-out recorded on other platforms.

Ad Avoidance & Distraction

As advances in technology continue to reduce the friction between people and the content they want, audiences are spending more and more time each day consuming media – particularly in the digital space. Time spent with major media across platforms has increased 9% since 2013, now averaging 10 hours per day.

With daily media consumption on the rise, it may be no surprise to learn consumers are often engaging with some of this media simultaneously and doing other things at the same time. Viewers A14-32 are on average doing four other activities while watching TV. Among the NPR audience, this multi-tasking is highest while watching TV— 45% say they consume other media platforms during TV time most or all of the time they watch.

While listening to NPR, however, the study found a shift in behavior. These audiences were found to become more attentive – 74% of listeners agree they are more attentive when listening to NPR than watching TV.

As audiences increasingly turn to subscription services and ad blocking behavior to avoid brand messages, this attentive tune-in is increasingly valuable. NPR listeners are a hard-to-reach audience from an advertising perspective – they’re more likely than non-listeners to seek media platforms that either have no or minimal advertising or make it easy to skip, and they’re more likely to skip once they’re there.

ad avoidance

But when these audiences put on NPR, they really start paying attention.

How To Stand Out From The Crowd

Enhancing the audience experience and finding true engagement is top-of-mind for most every brand in their marketing. The industry is finding more inventive ways to reach an audience through native content, virtual reality, voice control services such as Alexa, and live video on Facebook. No matter the format, the quality of the brand’s content is vital to attaining audience attention — 56% of U.S. millennials agree the most effective way to attract their business is by offering free content about a topic that interests them.

“Advertising is always a bit of a reflection of the culture, as well as, in many ways, advertising shapes culture,” Jose Villa, president of the Sensis marketing agency, told NPR Morning Edition host David Greene in an interview about the ads viewers will see in the Super Bowl 51 broadcast this weekend. “So part of what we try to do in the advertising business is make sure that we are relevant to what’s going on and can connect with people in emotional ways and obviously with topics that have a lot of emotional impact.” 

NPR’s newest sponsorship product, Brand Soundscapes, offers brands a way to connect with audiences on that deeper level. In the age of storytelling media from brands and traditional producers, brands can leverage Brand Soundscapes to present engaging audio stories about their brand. Find demos of this new product here.

From Brand Soundscapes to the versatile Center Stage unit, which now supports 360/VR video creative, to the NPR Player, named Digiday’s Best Brand Platform in 2016, NPR’s sponsorship team focuses on developing groundbreaking digital sponsorship experiences built around the same principles that have made NPR sponsorship on the radio so effective at driving engagement over the ad avoidance behaviors prevalent across the industry. The team will be kicking off even more of these experiences through the year, so stay tuned.

Learn More: Media Ad Avoidance & Distraction Research Study from NPR



[1] Ad Week; Here Are the Top 10 Super Bowl Ads on YouTube

[2] CNN; Super Bowl 50 audience is third largest in TV history

[3] eMarketer; Super Bowl In-Game vs. Pregame/Postgame Ad Spending, 2007-2016

[4] Ad Week; Super Bowl Ad Tracker: All About 2017’s Commercials

[5] eMarketer; Average Time Spent per Day with Major Media by US Adults, 2013-2018

[6] eMarketer; US Millennials Tolerate Native Ads and Branded Content

[7] NPR; Fox Rejects Super Bowl Ad With Immigration Theme; Another Will Air