Be an Attention Pirate - Sail the 7Cs

March 2021


Martin Boase famously once told Paul Feldwick

“If you are going to invite yourself into someone’s living room, you have a duty not to bore them. On the other hand, if you are a charming guest and you entertain them or amuse them or tell them something interesting, then they may like you a bit better and then they may be more inclined to buy your brand”

The essence of these words is as true now as ever, but they do require some updating. For now, with the proliferation of digital touchpoints, and most importantly, the increase of time spent on mobile(1), advertisers invite themselves into far more than their audience’s living rooms – they are a (potentially) constant companion in every room, every moment of life.

This is an important distinction, for what is desirable living room behaviour might be less appealing in the bedroom, and the reverse is certainly true.

With this in mind, let us consider three irrefutable facts

1. Advertising that reflects the context in which it sits is more effective (1)

2. Advertisements that align with the mindset and mood of the audience are more effective (2)

3. Most people dislike advertising in general (3) and dislike digital advertising in particular (4)

This article will therefore cover how we can create more enjoyable, more engaging and thus more effective digital adverts by paying closer attention to the platforms in which they feature.

Media should not be a distributor but an amplifier

When considering advertising effectiveness, we have often focused on Media’s ability to distribute the creative idea to either the broadest possible audience or the most relevant, at the exclusion of other factors.

This is understandable, for reach and targeting (22% and 9%) reflect the majority of media’s contribution to advertising effectiveness (6).

However, in the digital world, these latter two factors are table stakes – we generally are capable of reaching far more people than our budgets can afford and our ability to target ‘relevant’ audiences is the minimum basis of audience planning.

To find a competitive edge we must go beyond reach and relevance, we must serve our ads where they are most likely to resonate with our audience, to deliver outsized attention for their creative content. That is to say, use media that amplifies, rather than merely distributes the creative idea.

Sailing the 7Cs

This framework will help you understand what your audience is using a platform for, what content they’re likely to enjoy consuming and what journey we need to plan to get the best possible action:


who are we reaching?


What channels do they engage with/where can we reach them?


What do my audience use these channels for – see source (7) for a cheat sheet on this.

(organic) Content

What content is desirable on this platform? For example, what goes viral on LinkedIn is not the same as what goes viral on TikTok, our advertising should acknowledge that.


What are people already talking about on this channel, can I engage with it? How can I leverage the power of digital interactivity to start a new conversation with my audience?


We have the ability to retarget, to build a narrative in order and over time in Digital. We also have the ability to measure engagement with our content.

Combined, we should be able to create compelling user journeys that reflect the way our audience have responded to our adverts.


The beauty of digital advertising is that once we have someone’s attention, we can harness it to action immediately, there and then. We should plan to make this moment as seamless, easy and natural as possible.

Note – this is not always a sale, we may harness this attention to drive other actions, like sharing content, or discovering more information.

Why is this important again?

This reduces reliance on the traditional TVC

A recent but common challenge for creative agencies is to deliver the same level of impact in digital as they are able to produce in TV, despite lower dwell times and levels of attention.

In essence, how to turn the traditional 30” into a 6” without losing brand power. It is, of course, impossible.

The answer is instead to turn that 30” into a range of shorter assets, which can reflect different need states and can address differing audience choices. Remember, these could be 3 cutdowns of your TVC, if budget is tight.

TV can no longer build a brand (on its own)

The death of TV is, of course, total nonsense. However, we must acknowledge that the days in which a brand can be built on TV alone have passed. This is in part a story of declining youth viewing (8), it is also, more importantly, a reflection of the sheer number of touchpoints in which a brand is expected to be present in the digital era. Being able to build a powerful emotional connection in Digital is now non-negotiable.

The death of the cookie

On the flip side, digital is currently facing a crisis of its own – how to maintain advertising effectiveness when the cookie is no more.

The truth, of course, is that there will be no ‘1’ answer. However, context will be an essential component, ensuring strong relevance is maintained even when our ability to select precise audiences is lost.


In short, we can make advertising that is a fit guest for any ‘room’ our audience is in by paying close attention to what our audience is looking for and delivering it to them.

Viewed in this manner, the proliferation of digital platforms is not a challenge, but an opportunity to reach our audience in the most suitable, entertaining and relevant way possible.

Go forth and hunt for treasure: sail the 7 Cs.

(see an example of our framework in action and relevant further reading below)


7Cs in action

Let’s put this into action, to keep it topical, let’s imagine we’re working on addressing public concern about the coronavirus vaccines:

C Observation Action
Consumers Anti-vaccers often reject ‘mainstream’ medicine Target people who like holistic medicine pages
Channels Facebook and Twitter see high ‘anti vax’ activity Prioritise these channels
Consumption Our audience use these channels as news sources and as discussion areas – they’rethe digital equivalent of a local pub, news may not be reliable but if it’s a good enough story, people may listen anyway Reflect that ‘local pub’ feel – package information in entertaining stories, make it shareable, fun and less top down authoritative than other comms
Content ‘news’ is often reduced to short videos or memes – not long articles, celebrity ‘endorsements’ fuel the fire Create content in shortest most digestible form, make it shareable, keep longer content and facts in link for further reading, use unexpected influencers to push message
Conversations (There are many, here we pick one) There is significant concern about a lack of transparency with the process ‘I won’t put anything inside me, when I don’t know what’s in it’ Show the vaccine being made as transparently as possible, show it being inspected, even consider a ‘live stream’ of production – no-one will watch but its presence may reassure
Choices We should prepare for our audience being unreceptive to our message Build a story over time, begin with content that engages or surprises, build to our most informative content
Conversions Our ‘best action’ will depend on the audience – older audiences may be directed to a vaccination centre. Other audiences may be encouraged to share the key messages. Ensure campaign targets based on age, with the right action for the right age group.

Sources and further reading

(1),four%20and%20a%20hal f%20hours.









(6) (please note that what is meant by Context here (as in, how premium the environment) and what I mean by Context (what people are looking for in that environment) differ entirely





Faris Yakob – Paid Attention (a must read!)