People have been dividing their attention between screens at home from as far back as the laptop began to find it’s way into the living room, but the idea of second-screen programming really ramped up with the advent of smartphones.
These days, smartphones and tablets are always within reach, and ready to help you pass the time during a commercial break or dull program moment. This is proving to be a major challenge for marketers of traditional TV advertisements that are trying to get the views they require.
Personally, I grew up in an era when watching TV with the family was divided up into 2 specific brackets, one of which was simply watching shows while the other was using the commercial breaks to do anything else ie. bathroom breaks, household chores, simply talking amongst the family etc.
From an early age, most people have it engrained into them to mentally switch-off when commercials are on TV. This may have been a challenge that marketers had to deal with a few decades ago but today’s obstacles of secondary devices make those earlier challenges seem like a cakewalk.
Television viewers who use smartphones while watching the big screen are apt to get distracted, Facebook has found in a recent study of how people use their mobile devices to multitask in front of the TV.
Facebook found that those viewers within the study only had their eyes on the TV screen for about 53% of the time during the conducted study period, which utilised in-home eye-tracking technology. Overall the study found that 94% of the participants kept a smartphone on hand while watching TV.
That’s right, 94% of TV viewers kept their smartphones with them while watching a show, creating a multi-screening experience. Furthermore, Facebook IQ found that TV ad breaks were peak phone usage periods. Facebook users who posted that they’d be watching the premiere of a popular cable TV drama would sometimes more than triple their Facebook activity during ad breaks.
Within the eye-tracking study, people watched ad-supported TV content, according to a post on the company’s blog. On average, the people that watched ad-supported TV content were noted as being “disengaged” during a third of the commercial breaks. Viewers would stop watching breaks about 2.5 seconds into the first ad. And of those who stopped watching commercials, three-quarters started looking at their phones.
The evolution of how we consume media
It comes as no surprise that Millennials now consume more mobile experiences than TV time. According to analysed data on Millennial media behaviours, approximately 21.1 billion hours are spent on mobile consumption within a 3 month period, compared to only 19.1 billion spent watching TV. Furthermore, when analysing average age data, the average age of light TV viewers while on Facebook is 27, whereas the average age of heavy TV viewers while on Facebook is 48.
A study from eMarketer has shown that the average time consumers spend on their mobile devices has increased by nearly a minute per day over the past four years, while the amount of time they spend watching traditional television sets has dropped by more than 30 seconds in the same time period. In a few years, mobile devices will overtake TVs as the primary way consumers watch their favourite shows.
Of those using their phones while watching TV, 70% said they were trying to stay connected with friends; others said to avert boredom (51%), to take a break (44%) and to avoid missing out on other things going on (40%).These days, viewers categorise quality TV as “exclusive viewing”, as in they will not dedicate a large portion of time to their phone while the program is on. Even under these circumstances, people will still use their phone but mostly in an effort to enhance the viewership of an “exclusive viewing” program ie Live Tweet events or iMDB search the show they are watching.
This means that traditional TV isn’t going away anytime soon, but how we view traditional TV has shifted and will continue to shift, as traditional TV has become more of an accompanying component to smartphone surfing.
User perceptions and Behaviours
Facebook says one of the reasons Millennials watch less TV is due to mobile becoming more prominent. According to the Facebook IQ study, Millennials perceive TV as less affordable than watching mobile video.
Additionally, mobile devices allow users to multitask to the extreme, whether it be for work-related, social, entertainment or unwinding reasons. Even when mobile users have their TV shows return from commercial breaks, statistically most users will continue to glance at their phone to check a work email, a message, or a Facebook status update. Staying connected to friends and world news and trends is a major reason that users continuously multitask with their mobile devices.
In a survey of 500 US marketing decision makers conducted by Viant, 45.8% of respondents said that consumers being distracted by their second screens is one of the top factors that limits the success of their TV ad campaigns. The polled marketers also cited cord-cutting (cancellation of cable services) and consumers having too many channels to choose from as other top hurdles reducing the effectiveness of their TV ads.
Viant’s study underscores how users’ fragmented media consumption is disrupting how marketers approach traditional TV advertising.
About two-thirds of the respondents in Viant’s study said they have struggled to break through the ad clutter. And 86% of those polled said it is becoming harder to grab a consumer’s attention solely through TV advertising.
The underlying theme of the modern marketer’s struggle is that viewers now have the ability to and also wish to consume content of their choosing (that goes for marketing also). All this to say, while millennials may be inveterate multitaskers, when they’re actually in the flow of content-consumption, they’re ready and willing to interact with brand messaging on their own terms.
Here are four ways that marketers can reel in, engage and sell more to today’s distracted viewers:
- Develop creative messaging across all devices and platforms: Viewers expect a cohesive and seamless experience whether they’re watching TV, using a mobile web browser or watching a commercial on their tablets. Through creative messaging—tailored to each device—marketers can meet this demand while effectively harnessing viewers’ attention, regardless of which device they’re using. Each piece of the consumer’s experience should be consistent and complementary.
- Employ more innovative advertising techniques: The distracted millennial viewer is quite different compare to his or her predecessors. To reach this group, companies have to think beyond traditional TV advertising and get creative. An example of this can be found in Gamify’s branded advergame campaigns. While you may have traditional means of marketing, having a reward-based game that is tied to your marketing efforts can be a great way to maintain consumer engagement and positive brand association.
- Use solid analytics to measure results: Data, data, data–use it, analyse it. Along with the era of the distracted viewer comes the era of the smart home, analytics and metrics that allow advertisers to more effectively measure results and hone future messaging and campaigns. Companies should take advantage of these innovations and use robust analytics to take the learnings and integrate them into all of their campaigns, regardless of screen or medium. Gamify’s campaign analytics can track when and where games are being played, to help marketers and clients understand the effectiveness of their more traditional marketing efforts.
- Hit them while they’re still on the couch: According to a study from Nielsen, 27 percent of TV viewers look up product information online after watching a TV advertisement. Marketers can give these viewers what they’re looking for by aligning website and paid search campaigns to their TV ads. When TV-inspired viewers find the information they are looking for quickly—and right when the desire to purchase is peaked—sales conversion rates will improve exponentially, when targeting the transformist market.
There are literally pages upon pages of web searches of suggestions for “Games to play while watching TV”. This is a widely accepted phenomenon that shows no signs of going away any time soon. It has become culturally accepted and expected that most people will play around on their phones while also watching TV.
This cultural shift is proving to be so strong that TVs are starting to be viewed as the “second screen” in the equation. Most consumers are watching programs that “do not require their full attention” while they devote a majority of their engagement towards mobile activity. The TV is almost being reduced to background noise, kinda like when you have the house to yourself and you turn on the TV not so much to watch it but to create an atmosphere.
By developing creative messaging across all potential devices, along with using solid metrics and analytics to measure results, marketers can fully leverage the multiscreen phenomenon—and the distracted viewer that it has cultivated. Achieving this goal will require a bigger net, but the end result will be well worth it in an era where distraction is only going to proliferate. The speed of information, data and content is here to stay. Let’s not be afraid of it.