Media Multi-Tasking: Can it Benefit Your Brand ?

How often have you watched TV while using your laptop? Have you ever used your PC while keeping an eye on the TV in the same room? If you’ve done either, you’re like an increasing number of consumers who are multi-tasking in the new media world.

Multi-Tasking Across TV & On-Line Media

In many previous posts, I’ve talked about how cross-platform media exposure works. More specifically, it’s becoming increasingly clear that TV plus On-Line exposure is more impactful than either individually. And the same “1+1=3” phenom is almost certainly true across other media combinations.

What’s next in cross-media understanding? One potential area is “simultaneous exposure,” or exposing consumers to two different media at the same time–like working on your laptop while you watch the latest episode of Two and a Half Men. In theory, this should have an even larger impact than the same message in multiple media platforms over time.

What We Know About Simultaneous Media Usage

With the advent of single source viewing measurement, the clouds are clearing and we now have a much better understanding of how consumers are using media across the 3 screens. And the reality sure isn’t “cord-cutting. ” From this viewing data, we know that:

  • ~40% of HH’s watch both TV and Internet at the same time at least once a month
  • Simultaneous viewing is highest among the oldest groups—35-49 year olds and 50+
  • Simultaneous viewership of TV and internet grew 25 minutes per week year over year

No Signs of Cord-Cutting: Simultaneous Viewership Grows

So, we increasingly see the convergence of TV and Web viewing–although there isn’t yet much evidence of people switching off their cable or satellite connections to switch on to web based TV. However, the viewing experience and TV/Web overlap is quite different depending on your starting point. For example:

  • Among TV viewers, 4% of people are also on their PC’s at any given time
  • 40% of Internet viewing is done while people are also watching TV

This means that there is a lot more clutter around when people are on their PC’s than when they are watching TV. It also means that when you advertise on-line, there’s a pretty good chance that your consumers are also watching TV. The question then, is this – can you take advantage of this dual TV/Web usage?

On-Line Advertising: Breaking Thru Ad Clutter

What TV and Web Content Are Consumers Watching Simultaneously?

An obvious thought here is that consumers are likely consuming like content across the screens at the same time. That is, if I’m watching American Idol on TV, then I’m probably also consuming American Idol content on-line—at the same time. This would certainly present unique opportunities for advertisers to leverage common cross-platform content and perhaps achieve even greater synergy across the mediums. So, what are people watching at the same time?

The answer, interestingly, is not what you might think. The reality is that consumer viewing behavior isn’t different at all due to simultaneous viewership. Said differently, consumers watch TV and On-Line in the same way–whether they are watching simultaneously or not. So, if I’m watching American Idol on TV, I’m most likely to be doing the same things I would normally do on-line—like checking e-mail, perusing Facebook, or watching YouTube videos—versus viewing American Idol related content on-line.

What Does This Mean for Marketers ?

Simultaneous cross-platform TV and Web viewership is increasing. A significant amount of on-line PC content is consumed with the traditional TV on at the same time. The mediums are becoming increasingly intertwined—but they are not producing parallel content consumption.

This means the following:

1. Advertising break-thru is more important than ever — Brands need to focus more than ever on outstanding creative that cuts thru the increasingly cluttered world of media. Consumers are more distracted than ever with media multi-tasking. Because of this, brands need to understand how engaged consumers are with programming; consumer attentiveness to programming, and the ads in those programs, is more important than ever.

2. There are more opportunities to drive simultaneous messaging — It’s true that consumers aren’t generally consuming common content as they use TV and the Web simultaneously. However, there’s still an interesting opportunity for brands to leverage simultaneous media usage across platforms. Think about the traditional TV mujlti-network “roadblock” applied across both TV and Web.

3. Digital creative needs to link more closely to its TV counterpart. The fact that 40% of PC based web content consumption is done with the TV on means that brands need to work harder to have their digital creative connect to and work in tandem with their TV advertising.

Consumer Insights to Media Insights

In my days as a Brand Manager, we worshipped at the alter of the great “consumer insight.” These insights were almost always about how, why and where consumers used, thought and felt about their brands.

Sitting here, working on this post on my laptop–and watching the TV out of the corner of my eye, it seems clear that in the future, a new kind of consumer insight will become increasingly important–media insights. And within the world of media insights, media multi-tasking is one of the more interesting areas to watch.

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5 Responses to Media Multi-Tasking: Can it Benefit Your Brand ?

  1. Catherine Davis says:

    This is a great post. I completely agree with your implications for media multi-tasking. I think that the roadblocking idea is particularly interesting.

    I have thought for a long time that media insights are undervalued. With the incredible number of media choices and consumer’s limited ability to take it all in, how you use the channel is becoming increasingly more important.

    • beardrs says:

      Hi Catherine — Thanks for reading the blog and taking time to comment. It’s interesting that overall media consumption has risen significantly over the past 10 years; as I’ve written before, TV viewership is actually up over this time, so web and mobile media consumption are primarily incremental. Some of this has to be causing media multi-tasking as there are just so many minutes in a day to devote to media of any kind. Thus, understanding media habits and practices in this new multi-task era becomes doubly important. Randall

  2. Mihaela says:

    How true! I type this short comment as I’m watching Food Network – had to pause for a few minutes to take in one of Ina’s rice pudding recipes, noticed a TV ad for the Food Network magazine special promotion on line, went to the website to check it out and then returned to the blog. Some of the questions that always pop into my mind are:
    – exactly how much of the message is diluted by multi-tasking?
    – how much information is too much – i.e. how much can the consumer retain given the increased number of media and electronics options?

    • beardrs says:

      Mihaela — Thanks for the comment and reading the blog. Interesting that you responded to the post while media multi-tasking; I wrote much of it the same way. It just underscores how important this relatively new phenomenon is and how Marketers need to much better understand it. Randall

  3. “…but they are not producing parallel content consumption.”

    There are some notable exceptions here. Many event based programs for sports, award shows do accomplish parralel content consumption and also convince viewers to perform information tasks such as vote or rate a contestant, predict a winner, etc.

    I did not catch whether you distinguish mobile communications from web. Most of these exceptions use both text messaging and website promotion to drive the viewer to participate.

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