Ensuring Lottery ads make a splash

Stephen Cleary reports on studies into National Lottery digital ads and why marketers should be aware of poor attention levels    

Getting consumers’ attention to prompt purchase is crucial. When someone dreams of a life-changing win, or they pop into a local shop to get some lunch, to what extent does the National Lottery brand come to mind? Without attention, our ads have no impact. Over the past year we have been trying to make our brand building advertising more effective by prioritising attention.

Our marketing team had spent last year learning how to improve the chances of our ads getting noticed and remembered. Our water slide and yellow inflatable ring images help us do that. As does spending more than we did previously on channels that tend to get more attention seconds. We decided that we would no longer report on vanity metrics like clicks, likes or shares.

This year we went a step further. We kicked off a piece of research with Red C by using market leader in attention Professor Karen Nelson-Field’s Amplified Intelligence measurement tool. The research measures how much attention people really pay to ads. By ‘real attention’ we mean human eyes on our ads rather than the data that the social media platforms told us.


The following table shows Active Attention Seconds results from one of our ads, tested in-feed and in story formats where possible.

Platform Active Attention Seconds Difference to In The Wild ads
Facebook 1.7 -0.5
Instagram 2.2 +0.2
Twitter 3.2 +0.5
YouTube 2.7 +0.6

Attention Cut-Off 

Our research showed that most people did not watch more than 2.5 seconds of our ads, so beware the attention cut-off. It is quite humbling to see how little people care about your ads after all the effort that is invested in making them – especially on Facebook in our case.

We don’t believe that to be a reflection of the creative, but the reality of the platforms with which we advertise. We knew from previous Amplified Intelligence studies across other markets that most ads were not getting more than 2.5 seconds of attention. Our ads were not any different. If your ad is over 10 seconds in length you should be aware of the strong possibility of ad wastage.

Longer ads do not guarantee more attention.

Adjust Media Plan

One ad of ours was tested across Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and they all had different amounts of attention. On Twitter, our ad in-feed had more than double the amount of active attention seconds than on Facebook in-feed and a lot more passive attention. Seeing this, we adjusted our media plans to find a better balance between reach, frequency and an attention adjusted view of reach.

Our waterslide visual, which 94 per cent of Irish adults in market research associate with the National Lottery when shown without any logos or taglines, is our winning ticket to distinctiveness‘ – Stephen Cleary 

Set Expectations

There are varying elasticities between the highest and lowest amount of attention each platform can provide. Our Facebook in-feed video ad was getting between one and two seconds of attention and it is unlikely our ad would get more than three seconds of attention based on research that the Amplified Intelligence team have undertaken in other markets.

Be Distinct

Despite the highest hopes, the reality is, as Peter Field pointed out, our social media ads are   more likely to be “a gentle reinforcement of our distinctive brand assets”. If you keep your ads under 10 seconds without any long story arcs, you can lean on your distinctive brand assets to get noticed. We do this big, early and often to refresh cues that the brand exists and can be remembered.

Our waterslide visual, which 94 per cent of Irish adults in our market research associate with the National Lottery when shown without any logos or taglines, is our winning ticket to distinctiveness. We are even thinking of using this from the very first second, as we found that for the ads we tested on Facebook and Instagram or the ads viewers skip freely after the one second mark.

What Next?

With a clearer picture of how scarce consumer attention is, we are now looking to optimise our media plan and find a better balance with which the reach and attention each platform can provide. Should our distinctive brand assets be used even earlier than we thought? Maybe we can do a better job of breaking the viewer’s prediction in the very first second to keep them tuned in.

It was another reminder for us that as media-investing brand owners we did not get what we paid for in digital advertising. As more attention seconds boosts mental availability, a positive future would see advertisers put their media spend behind formats that have a much better chance of impacting longer term memories. After all, marketers are in the memory-making business.

Stephen Cleary is social media manager at the National Lotterystephen.j.cleary@lottery.ie




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