How to grab attention in five seconds

Alex Smith

Client Partner

24th August 2022

~ 4 min read

Every media interaction we have with consumers is underpinned by how well we can first capture our audience’s attention. To put it simply, this is our most important job as marketers.  

While this has always been the case, we also now live in a world with exponentially more choice, more competition, and an excess of media messages. We’re also pivoting increasingly to a video-only landscape, with video projected to account for 82% of all consumer internet traffic by the end of 2022, according to Cisco.

This means that regardless of the video format in question, effectively catching user attention is vital – and the first five seconds are critical when it comes to drawing in the consumer and winning their attention. 

There’s a common misconception that being able to grab attention quickly is important due to human attention spans getting shorter, along with claims of a supposed “attention war” with new media platforms and technology to blame for a decline in our ability to concentrate. But, the answer is more complicated.

Yes, technology has created more distractions and has made users less willing to engage in unwarranted tasks in order to achieve their goals, but there’s still little evidence that this is connected to our ability to concentrate. The more likely truth is that people have just become more selective about who and what they engage with. 

It’s therefore important that brands use these valuable opening seconds in the most effective way to achieve the desired results. In fact, studies by Facebook and Nielsen found that up to 47% of the value in a video campaign was delivered in the first three seconds, while up to 74% of the value was delivered in the first 10 seconds.

We can therefore look at these opening moments and separate them into three parts to better understand the anatomy of the first five seconds: the hook, the introduction to the brand, and the objective.

1. The hook

We need to be mindful of the context in which our ads are appearing. Our brains need time to adjust when an ad appears in front of us, and this is where the right ad can maximise attention from the beginning.

The hook is therefore crucial to grab the audience’s attention, especially when they were not expecting your brand to appear. Visually striking imagery, colours and copy, coupled with impactful audio is an immediate cue for the user to watch your ad. This will aid recall and help set the scene of the story or message to follow. 

High contrast colours, large text, and clear imagery will also help with driving more viewers who are watching on mobile devices, which on YouTube alone makes up over 70% of all viewers.

Research by Google reveals that telling a captivating story with humorous, suspenseful or emotional tones is more likely to draw people in, and as a result, is more likely to drive consumers to watch the complete video. These tones are also associated with higher ad recall.

2. The introduction to the brand

Introducing your brand is the next important step, and finding the right balance is key to achieving your objectives.

Research has found that ads featuring the brand prominently in the first five seconds have higher ad recall and brand awareness lift. Alongside this, it’s important to use audio cues to let viewers know who is speaking to them, and subsequently remind them of this throughout the rest of the ad. To maximise the effect of this, use both clear visual and audio cues together to ensure you are cutting through.

In this same vein, studies reveal that if you’re going to show a brand logo in the opening seconds of your ad, you should make sure that it is placed on your product when possible. Viewers are less likely to watch and remember brands when they only feature floating brand logos in their ads.

3. The objective

In the opening moments of an ad, it’s crucial to have a clear objective. Many marketers often struggle with trying to include a lot of different elements at once – this risks overloading the viewer. This is a sure fire way to end up with the ad not delivering any of the desired information with any sufficient impact.

Research has also shown that higher brand lift occurs if a call-to-action is used within the first five seconds of the ad, so it is advised to be upfront and set your expectations for the viewer.

The most efficient way to drive performance is by telling the viewer in the simplest way possible what you want them to do after seeing the ad. Regardless of what you are trying to achieve, using clear instructions to communicate next steps to and reinforcing this throughout the ad is key. This can be done to great effect using audio or text, or even a combination of both. 95% of Youtube ads are played with the sound on, so don’t miss the opportunity to have audio support your objective.


As the video landscape continues to evolve, we need to embrace the opportunities which allow us to show up meaningfully in the places our audiences are consuming media. Marketers must use new platforms and formats which will help better showcase their brands and enrich their campaigns, cutting through the increasing noise. Leaning into best practices and testing what works for them, will give them an advantage in this exciting video-first world.

If you’d like to learn more, or discuss the topics mentioned above, please get in touch.

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