Mind your attention

I really enjoyed watching this ad film (from 2015) for Škoda Fabia by the agency AIS London.

Let me not spoil it for you – watch it first, and then read the rest of this post.

This ad is what I’d call the advertising’s equivalent of ‘Sleight of hand’. Sleight of hand, in magic, involves misdirection, psychological manipulation, and narrative skills. While performing a card trick, as magicians are doing something with their hands, you may not observe it because they keep talking something to engage and misdirect your attention.

Similarly, the narrator in the ad film directs your attention to the car in the center and keeps talking about it to make you notice the elements one by one. The frames shift more obviously, intentionally, because each frame brings a subtle change. But your attention is constantly directed to the car.

The car was attention-stealing because our attention was intentionally directed towards it. If the voice-over was focused on another object, say the shop called ‘Atlam’ (which changes to Clock Centre, eventually), we could say that Atlam was truly attention-stealing.

In other words, the claim that the car is attention-stealing and that the way you behaved during the film’s run-time is proof of that is not true. You are coerced into letting your attention be directed in one direction for a specific object.

To test this, watch the ad 2 more times, but use these guidelines:
– first viewing – watch it on mute
– second viewing – watch everything else but the car

It is, no doubt, a clever idea. It makes you look at the film more than once and perhaps remember the car.

But the foundation is not strong enough, though I wouldn’t hold it against the ad film. The intent of the film is to make you look/watch and remember and that it achieves effortlessly.

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