The Growth of Screens

“Multitasking, when it comes to paying attention, is a myth. The brain naturally focuses on concepts sequentially, one at a time. … To put it bluntly, research shows that we can’t multitask. We are biologically incapable of processing attention-rich inputs simultaneously.” – Dr. John Medina, Brain Rules

Americans spend 12 hours and 31 minutes per day with media, an increase of 66 minutes since 2009 (according to eMarketer). How can this be possible, given our busy lives?

Daily mobile media usage (smartphones and tablets) has increased by 60 minutes since 2009, more than any other major medium. Daily online usage via the PC has increased by 27 minutes over the same time span, and daily TV usage has risen by 11 minutes (eMarketer). These screens are the only media to grow in usage since 2009; they are the reason overall media usage is up.

According to a recent study from Google and Ipsos, most screen interactions are now multiscreen. So if multitasking is a misnomer, as Medina suggests, how much attention are consumers paying to specific content and to our ads?

Multitasking and Advertising

Research group Thinkbox found that 81 percent of TV multitaskers stay in the room and don’t change the TV channel when multitasking; just 72 percent of non-multitaskers show the same behavior. Instead of avoiding advertising altogether, multitaskers are often engaging with another ad-supported device.

Advertisers are capitalizing on complementary multitasking with TV-show companion apps. For example, a cooking-show companion app might provide more detail on ingredients or cookware used, and a grocery or retail advertiser could integrate to encourage conversion at their stores.

However, it’s important to note that most people use the “second screen” for activities unrelated to what they are watching on TV. According to a recent IAB/Ipsos study:

  • 93 percent of TV viewers multitasking with a PC are doing something unrelated to the show on their PC.
  • 88 percent of TV viewers multitasking with a tablet are doing something unrelated to the show on their tablet.
  • 83 percent of TV viewers multitasking with a smartphone are doing something unrelated to the show on their smartphone.

A Multiplatform Approach

Given the above data, each screen might require a different strategy for advertisers. Some distinctions make each screen unique:

  • Multitasking while watching TV is most common, but TV also accounts for more time spent than any other screen and provides the largest screen to use as a canvas.
  • PCs still have greater reach and scale than tablets or smartphones, and larger screens than both mobile devices. However, they are increasingly a workplace-heavy device.
  • Tablets are stealing share from PCs, particularly for at-home entertainment and leisure activities.
  • Consumer usage of smartphones is very social- and task-oriented.

Multitasking has increased overall media usage, giving us more opportunities than ever to reach consumers. But attention spans are short, distracting devices are abundant and, as Medina suggests, consumers can pay attention to only one medium at a time. It’s crucial that our brands have an engaging presence that will capture consumers’ attention on whatever screen has their focus.

This phenomenon is yet another reason for integrated media planning (offline and online media planned by one team rather than two). Creating an effective communication strategy means reaching the consumer when and where they will be most receptive – and it appears that in the world of screens, offline and online have joined together.

Categories: 1000 ft. POV, Advertising, Industry, New Media

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  • Karl Meisenbach ·

    “Open Mind” and “Closed Mind”¶
    [There is a] dangerous little catch phrase which advises you to keep an “open mind.” This is a very ambiguous term—as demonstrated by a man who once accused a famous politician of having “a wide open mind.” That term is an anti-concept: it is usually taken to mean an objective, unbiased approach to ideas, but it is used as a call for perpetual skepticism, for holding no firm convictions and granting plausibility to anything. A “closed mind” is usually taken to mean the attitude of a man impervious to ideas, arguments, facts and logic, who clings stubbornly to some mixture of unwarranted assumptions, fashionable catch phrases, tribal prejudices—and emotions. But this is not a “closed” mind, it is a passive one. It is a mind that has dispensed with (or never acquired) the practice of thinking or judging, and feels threatened by any request to consider anything.What objectivity and the study of philosophy require is not an “open mind,” but an active mind—a mind able and eagerly willing to examine ideas, but to examine them critically. An active mind does not grant equal status to truth and falsehood; it does not remain floating forever in a stagnant vacuum of neutrality and uncertainty; by assuming the responsibility of judgment, it reaches firm convictions and holds to them. Since it is able to prove its convictions, an active mind achieves an unassailable certainty in confrontations with assailants—a certainty untainted by spots of blind faith, approximation, evasion and fear.     “Philosophical Detection,”
    Philosophy: Who Needs It, 21