10/04/2011 10:38 am ET Updated Dec 04, 2011

Breaking Through in the Age of Peak Media

Peak Oil refers to when oil production reaches the point of diminishing returns. Borrowing the concept, will there be a point when media consumption reaches a point of diminishing returns? Our research at MAGNAGLOBAL foresees no end in sight to daily media consumption. We anticipate steady growth in media device ownership, time spent with media, and total consumer ad exposure. And in the era of ubiquitous connectivity, we are also anticipating a steady increase in the byproducts of simultaneous media consumption and content creation

While the analogy to oil production is interesting, the fact that we can't even agree on a methodology to define the upper bound of media consumption means that our lives will become even more Mediated. Total Mediation will profoundly impact how we learn, tell stories, and deploy mass communications.

Brands are going to have to work even harder to break through the clutter. The Digital Media industry seems to be waking up to clutter's ruinous effect on advertising value. In partnership with AOL and the IPG Media Lab, we recently benchmarked the new 1/3 page, IAB Portrait unit to more prevalent smaller ad units. Using an innovative testing framework across three different categories of advertisers, we found the larger units outperformed the smaller units on almost every meaningful metric: eye fixation duration length, in-unit engagement, ad recall, and even fewer frowns. And while the finding that bigger is better when it comes to capturing attention is not that surprising, what was surprising was the creative elements that pulled viewers in -- interactive features like photo carousels, in unit controls and striking imagery all worked well.

Perhaps the most exciting thing to come out of the study was the development of a methodology where we can optimize digital advertising based on its ability to capture attention and drive emotional response. We all know that what gets measured gets done. Only measuring impulse response and last click attribution result is more advertising clutter and further degradation of the attention ecosystem. Optimizing against metrics for capturing attention and the elusive emotional response will help the market reward ad experiences that defeat clutter. Perhaps one day soon, digital advertising practitioners will be able to engage in cocktail party conversations about interesting new digital ads like we have done with other media form factors for years.