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Inattentional Blindness in Advertising
By: Dwayne W. Waite Jr.
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To be successful in advertising, we believe that you must have the generalist mentality: know a little about a lot. A successful person in advertising is smart; they know their skill and ability, and rarely waver. 


We've said several times in the recent past that our industry suffers from "shiny object" syndrome; when something new or interesting is put in front of us, we totally leave the realm we're accustomed to and focus squarely on the latest, fastest, and shiniest.

We want to focus on the opposite side of the spectrum.

Sometimes, when we focus on a single thing — whether it is creative, copy, strategy, or digital — sometimes we see ourselves or others make glaring mistakes. Not on the subject they are focusing on, mind you, but immediately outside their scope. Why is that? Before, we would attribute that to just being sloppy; that the person working lost their focus and didn't pay attention to the whole thing. But now from a recent study we see that there may be more to it.

Inattentional blindness.

Inattentional blindness happens when one is performing a challenging task and their attention narrows only to the task at hand, forcing their mind to block out anything around it. A scientist performed this study on a group of radiologists. The group of radiologists was tasked to find spots of cancer in an x-ray of lungs, and the scientist superimposed a picture of a gorilla on the upper right side.

Eighty-three percent of radiologists missed the gorilla.

What's the point? The point is, these skilled specialists were determined to find a single piece of information; so determined that they framed their minds to block out anything that wasn't what they were looking for. 

Have we not seen that in our industry? Copywriters who look only at the copy but miss major flaws in the creative, CDs that only look at the creative but missed copy errors? 

Being a specialist has its place, but inattentional blindness is a byproduct we desperately want to avoid.

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About the Author
Dwayne W. Waite Jr. is partner and principal at JDW: The Charlotte Agency, a marketing and advertising shop in Charlotte, NC. He enjoys consumer behavior, economics, and football.
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