top of page
  • Writer's pictureDeJuan Wright

Study: Gen Z Loses Attention For an Advertisement in This Many Seconds

Distractions. A word that definitely gets tossed around a lot these days to explain why people have so much trouble keeping their focus (I must admit, that I'm also guilty of overusing the word). But due mostly to the pervasiveness of the internet—especially social media, people are now more distracted today than they have ever been at any point in history. 

But just what is considered a distraction these days? If you were to ask most marketing professionals, they’d probably define a distraction as anything that causes consumers to not focus fully on their brand or marketing efforts. 

Setting aside marketing professionals’ obvious self-interest definition of the word, Merriam-Webster defines a distraction as something that distracts: an object that directs one’s attention away from something else

With the correct definition of distractions in mind, I’m sure you’d agree that with tech gadgets like smartphones, laptops, and television constantly demanding our attention, it’s extremely difficult to not capitulate to the digital distractions in our day-to-day lives. 

Depending on your age at the moment, avoiding distractions could be much harder to do for some of us than it is for others. For those who born between 1997-2012—also known as Gen Z, avoiding those distractions are tremendously more difficult. 

Attention spans are getting shorter. And we must acknowledge it  

As we age, whether justifiably so or not, we often tend to view the past much more favorably than we do the present. Disagree? Ask someone over the age of 30 what their favorite songs, albums, and television shows of all time are. Odds are that the songs, albums, and television shows that they name will all have been released during the time when they were in grade school.

Don’t get me wrong, fondly reminiscing about the past and viewing it through a more favorable lens isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But as the cartoonist, the late Bill Keane famously said, “Yesterday’s the past, tomorrow’s the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”

In order to truly appreciate the present, we must not only acknowledge—but also, and just as importantly—adapt to many inconvenient facts about the present that may not be easy to embrace. 

For instance, one of those facts is that today, thanks to the aforementioned digital distractions diverting our focus, the average person’s attention span is now shorter than it has ever been—especially Gen Zers .

As a marketing professional, denying this harsh reality and devising your marketing strategies without acknowledging this fact would not only do a disservice to your marketing efforts—it would also be to the detriment of your business, company, or brand. 

How long does it take for Gen Z to lose attention for an ad? 

After years of analyzing consumer data as a brand strategist, there’s not much that surprises me when it comes to consumer behavior. However, if attracting Gen Z consumers is one of your brand’s objectives, the results of this Gen Z study may astonish you.

According to a study by Yahoo and OMD Worldwide, it only takes a whopping 1.3 seconds for Gen Z to lose active attention for ads. 

That means you have up to 1.3 seconds to not only capture, but also hold Gen Z viewers’ attention before they totally tune out your ad and focus their attention on one of the numerous apps on their phone, texting, or anything else that they’d find more interesting than your advertisement. 

One of the best ways to hold Gen Zers' attention 


Ironically, one of the best ways that your brand could capture and hold the attention of Gen Zers with your ads is by actually intentionally creating the very thing that is responsible for lowering the demographic’s attention span in the first place—a distraction.

The way to do that is by creating ads that are embedded with external triggers.

“All behaviors, whether they tend toward traction or distraction, are prompted by triggers, internal or external.” Writes Nir Eyal, co-author of the book Indistractable: How to Control Your Attention and Choose Your Life

If you’re wondering just what an external trigger is, as Eyal describes them in Indistractable, “External triggers, on the other hand, are cues in our environment that tell us what to do next, like the pings, dings, and rings that prompt us to check our emails, open a news alert, or answer a phone call.” 

You could use the power of external triggers in your branded advertising content by inserting an external trigger at the very beginning of your ads to grab and hold your audience’s attention. 

Those external triggers could come in the form of:

  • The sound of a phone ringing.

  • The sound of a text alert. 

  • A popular song playing in the background. 

  • The theme music of a popular television show.

  • Music from a popular video game.

  • The image of a social media inbox. 

Essentially, external triggers are actuators of behavior which serve as subtle habit-forming calls-to-action that subconsciously commands the mind to take certain steps. Try to think of external triggers as prompts that capture our attention and influences us to take desired actions. 

By inserting external triggers in the opening of your ads—not only would your ad have a better chance at grabbing Gen Zers’ undivided attention for longer than 1.3 seconds—it’ll also have a better chance at influencing them to take a desired action—like purchasing your products or services.  


bottom of page