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Media Multitasking Enhances Rather Than Robs TV Ads

Published on March 23, 2012

Consumers are spending more time social networking and consuming digital content, but they leave the TV on; in fact it takes the lion’s share of consumer’s time spent with media, reports eMarketer. But are their eyes on the screen?

Not always, but for savvy advertisers, the digital content enhances the TV experience, and speaks to the ads. “The age of multitasking means consumers are [able] to receive multiple streams of messages at the same time,” said eMarketer Analyst Mark Dolliver, author of the new report, “Time Spent with Media: Consumer Behavior in the Age of Multitasking.” But that can water down the impact of the TV ads.eMarketer estimates that U.S. adults consumed more than 11 hours of media content in an average day in 2011, double-counting for simultaneous usage.

Still, some experts note an upside: the ability to target the consumer from multiple approaches, and at the same moment. Multitasking “builds attention around a body of content rather than dispersing it across unrelated activities.” So, someone watching a TV show with an iPad in his lap is “Not necessarily multitasking in contradictory ways…I may be using my iPhone or my iPad to GPS a location that’s in a TV show,” said Edward Boches, creative director at the Mullen ad agency. The viewer may be using one device to augment the experience of another.

Or as in the case of interactive TV, to participate in the TV programming. Certainly, TV viewers can interact in real time during an “American Idol” broadcast. But the NBC/Ford-sponsored reality show “Escape Routes,” premiering March 31, invites audiences to interact in real-time with the cast via a Google Hangout. This program is meant to be experienced on multiple screens.

Fully 19% of smartphone and tablet owners reported using mobile devices to find information related to a TV commercial, according to Nielsen data for Q3 2011. So a brand that is prepared to meet consumers on multiple screens, with original and useful content on each, can engage its audience more deeply.