5 Secret Tactics Advertisers Use To Grab Viewer's Attention
Updated: Mar 28
When I was in college, I took just about every marketing course that you could think of. And while they were all very interesting and informative—one of my absolute favorite courses was Introduction To Advertising.
It was there—that I discovered that there are so many different elements that go into creating a traditional advertisement. It’s also so many subtle nuances and intricate details that make an advertisement effective—many of which often go unnoticed by the casual viewer.
If you’re wondering, “What makes an advertisement effective?” The barometer that advertising executives use to determine whether an ad is effective or not is predicated on whether it captivates and compels a target audience to give it their undivided attention—while also accurately conveying its intent (marketing executives focus more on sales).
Here's five secret attention-grabbing tactics used in the advertising industry that you may not have noticed until now.
1. The remote conveyor
One of the most effective attention-grabbing tactics used by advertising creatives in ads is the remote conveyor. A remote conveyor is a tactical gambit aimed to grab an audience’s attention in an ad by presenting a remote object in the ad that conveys the benefit of a branded product.
The remote conveyor process works like this:
An object that seems out of place appears in either a commercial or a print ad for a product with the intent of capturing the viewer’s attention (the remote)
The object then goes on to serve as a conveyor of the key benefits of the product
Here’s a true example of a remote conveyor in an ad that you might’ve already experienced:
You’re watching something on your television, smartphone, or laptop (maybe even your desktop), and an ad comes on. Suddenly, you see Snoop Dogg on a beautiful beach on a sunny day walking towards a DJ booth. Snoop then takes a vinyl record out of its sleeve and says, “Sometimes you take it easy.” Snoop then places the record on a turntable to play it and says, “And sometimes you make it easy.” Reggae music begins to play and Snoop says the Corona tagline, “That’s the fine life baby,” right before the commercial ends.
This ad is so effective because Snoop instantly grabs your attention by appearing on a beach (the remote)—which makes your mind automatically wander, “What’s Snoop doing on a beach?,” After grabbing your attention—Snoop then goes on to convey the product’s key benefit—which is associating Corona beer with the fine life. Think about it—when you think of the fine life…doesn’t it involve a beach? Mission accomplished!
2. The “hold”
A huge part of effective advertising consists of understanding the science of psychology. That’s why advertisers often use data gathered from psychological studies as tools to ensure that their ads are as effective as possible.
One of the tactics that advertisers use to amplify the effectiveness of an ad is the “hold.” The hold is a tactic based on experiments in psychology that have proven people are more likely to recognize an object by looking at it for at least 2 seconds consecutively.
Advertisers apply the hold in commercials by zooming in on a product or a brand’s logo and holding the frame (like it’s frozen) for at least two seconds to ensure that the people watching will recognize and recall a product or brand logo.
These days, you’ll see the hold in just about every commercial for a product. So, the next time you’re watching a product commercial, pay close attention—and I’m certain you’ll see the hold.
3. The Lead-In
Another interesting aspect of the art of advertising is the fact that different approaches are applied to different products based on the price of the product. For example, the tactics applied in an ad for a refrigerator would differ from tactics applied in an ad for an ice chest.
That’s because a refrigerator is considered a high-involvement item—which means that the consumer is likely to be highly involved in doing their due diligence prior to making a purchase because of the cost and importance of the item. While the ice chest would be considered a low–involvement item for the opposite reasons.
For high-involvement items—advertisers often use what are known as lead-ins, in print ads to compel consumers to pay closer attention to the ad.
Lead-ins work like this: A shocking headline is placed in a print ad for the sole purpose of capturing the reader's undivided attention. The headline then leads-in to copy that provides more context to the headline—while making it less shocking and more sensical.
Here’s an example of a lead-in for a washing machine:
— “Your Underwear Has Brown Streaks!” (Headline)
— Which is why (brand’s name) high-powered washing machines were created to remove them in minutes (Copy).
One of the more rare—but effective tactics that advertisers use to grab a viewer’s attention are breadcrumbs. Breadcrumbs are ads created with the intent to intrigue viewers by presenting a mysterious message, question, or scenario aimed to get the viewer to intellectually invest in its outcome.
Breadcrumb ads are usually part of a larger ad campaign. Here’s a scenario for a breadcrumb ad campaign:
A popular west coast seafood restaurant chain is finally expanding outside of the west coast and will open up its first restaurant outside of its region in Denver, Colorado. To build hype around the launch—the brand’s marketing team decides not to announce the launch and instead—secretly pays for billboards on the busiest streets in Denver which says, “Finally, a real seafood restaurant is coming to Colorado.” Which will remain up for 3 months.
After the third month, the messaging on the billboards are then replaced by the date of the launch—which will remain up for 30 days. A week before the launch—the brand has a press conference and invites the local media to cover it—revealing the brand and the restaurant’s location in the city.
5. Frequency patterns
Last, but certainly not least—are the frequency tactics advertisers use to ensure brand recognition. You may have already heard of “The Rule Of 7,” which is a marketing concept that states that it takes an average of seven exposures to a brand before a consumer makes a purchase.
To ensure that viewers are exposed to an ad a minimum of seven times—advertisers created patterns to control how often a target audience is reached by an ad campaign.
One of the most effective patterns used is called the “blitz’’ (which is mostly utilized for newer products). The blitz pattern consists of advertisers aiming to reach 100% of their target audience every week through continuous advertising—while also increasing frequency after each week of the campaign for an average of 26-weeks.
The blitz pattern is probably the reason why you can’t get a brand’s jingle out of your head and could recite the words from certain commercials verbatim (hey, it may be annoying…but it’s effective).