Online advertising is theft of your attention

Attention is the allocation of limited processing resources, it is a finite resource and once spent, it is forever gone. If you want to think of attention in terms of a commodity, then attention is one of the most valuable ones since it drives & influences our actions, behaviors & thoughts so deeply. We pay attention to something and thus use up a currency. This is something that advertisers know all too well. The battle for your attention is full-on. As the source of this finite pool attention, you are the target and the aim of the game is to steal as much of your attention from you as possible, only to be redirected to the whoever gives the harvester the highest bid!

The reason money is spent on advertising is because it changes your behavior, but only if the cost is lower than what you will bring in through your change in behavior, namely spending your money with the advertised product or service. In order to change your behavior, the first thing that needs to happen is that your attention must be stolen and redirected towards the advert. An effective advert is designed specifically to accomplish this task quickly and effectively. In a blink of an eye, it must steal your attention and then retain it at least long enough so that its message can be conveyed to you.

Every time that your attention is stolen from you, the price you pay is not just limited to this direct attention that was stolen away from you but it is also in the time, effort and energy required to refocus your attention back on your original task. You really do pay the price of losing your attention multiple times.

On-line advertising is portrayed to us, the eye-balls, as being totally unobtrusive and subtle: “On-line advertising is something that you shouldn’t worry about; it won’t interfere with you too much & you’ll never notice it’s there, we won’t steal your attention, promise…!” That is what advertisers are telling us and what they will have us believe.

But these same advertisers then turn around and tell a very different story to their real customer: those buying display time from them to serve their adverts. They sell their advertising locations and present it as the most effective way to capture the attention of a specific audience that will most likely act on the advertising. “Capture the attention of”, indeed. Advertisers know all too well that these adverts steal your attention away from your chosen way of spending it, and many research studies confirm that on-line advertising is superbly effective at stealing our attention.

Similarly, those paying (in money) for on-line advertising also confirm these findings. If advertising didn’t work, the vast amounts of money being spent on on-line advertising would be effect-less. Yet this expenditure on behalf of those advertising isn’t for naught & it is effective because it does indeed steal away your attention in order to refocus it on the advert.

On top of all of this, advertisers behave as if attention is an “unrealized resource” which is used to indicate that “it is ours but we just haven’t taken it yet and preventing us from taking it is stealing”; their position is that it unquestioningly belongs to them, even before it is willingly given to them. By guarding your own property, you are somehow depriving them of something that they consider already theirs, protecting something that is & was yours all along, is contorted into being theft. But a thief claiming that all your belongings are just his ‘unrealized assets’ & that securing your home deprives the thief thereof, wouldn’t be able to count on much public support, and neither should advertisers.

Attention theft is not without consequences. Long term effects of it fall under Attention Control Erosion. Attentional control refers to the ability to consciously determine what to pay attention to and what to ignore. On-line advertising conditions us into an artificial new-normal where it is normal for your attention to jump from one thing to another by constantly bombarding us with new things, each screaming for what it considers its fair share of your attention. In the long run, you build up an attention deficit because it becomes normal to pay only cursory attention to everything instead of paying close attention to anything. In effect, through information pollution, your future attention is being stolen from you as well as your present attention.

We know that all of these things are true. For instance, we have strict spam-filters in place already because spam distracts us from what we’re trying to accomplish. Yet when it comes to the Internet, we don’t have a solid defense against this yet. IvyDNS  prevents advertising from interfering and restores the power in determination of what to pay attention to. It blocks advertising from being downloaded by your device(s) and it gives you your control over your attention back!