Multiscreening And Simultaneous Media Use: Unlocking The Golden Age Of … – Forbes

This article is by Joline McGoldrick, Director, Research, Millward Brown.

When marketers think of multiscreening, they often see it is a new challenge or obstacle: “How do I compete with the distractions of the smartphone or the tablet, while my audience is watching TV?” Marketers tend to view these distractions as a new problem.  They are not.

Distracted first-screen usage (or, more clinically, multiscreening or simultaneous media use) has been an issue even since the advent of radio. As early as the mid-1930s, public opinion researchers Hadley Cantril and Gordon Allport were studying the phenomena of multitasking and simultaneous media use. In a 1935 article they noted that two-thirds of their sample listened to the radio while also engaging in another activity, and wrote, in part:

The housewife performs her household duties to the accompaniment of music, advice and advertising: in the afternoon she may sew, read or play bridge with the same background…in the evening, radio may provide a setting against which dinner is served and guests are entertained.

Now sewing’s been replaced by smartphones; reading is done on a tablet; and the audience manages their household by laptop.  And these behavioral changes open the door to a golden age for digital advertising, because each of these “new” distractions (simultaneous uses) provides an opportunity for additive and engaging connections that were never possible when consumption involved just one screen.


Family watching television, c. 1958

Family watching television, c. 1958 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Fast Forward: Simultaneous Use in 2014

Millward Brown studied the phenomena of today’s multiscreening in our 2014 AdReaction report. We measured both the scale of multiscreening, as well as audiences’ receptivity to marketing initiatives across screens. We surveyed multiscreen audiences (those who had access to a TV and at least one wireless device) across 30 countries, including the US, China, India, Russia, Brazil and Canada.

Our findings bolstered our perspective that multiscreening is the path forward for advertising. The frequency and centrality of mobile devices in users’ lives open the door for a Golden Age if brands can optimize communication across devices and integrate the brand within the content audiences are consuming.

The scale of this opportunity is massive. A typical U.S. multiscreen user consumes 7 hours and 24 minutes of screen media per day during a 5 hour and 14 minute period. Of that time, 34 percent is spent on smartphones; 33 percent on TV (second only to the UK); 23 percent on laptops; and 10 percent on tablets.

Notably, how audiences spend time does not match up with how advertisers spend media dollars, with mobile spend lagging.  According to eMarketer, in 2014 advertisers will spend $13.1 billion on mobile advertising (11 percent of multiscreen spend share) compared to the $68.5 billion on TV advertising (59 percent of multiscreen share); or even desktop/PC digital advertising(30 percent of the multiscreen share).

How do advertisers leverage the multiscreen opportunity?  We believe that it comes down four key principals:

First, appreciate the behavior and mindset of multiscreening audiences.

When audiences multiscreen, they are shifting, stacking, or meshing. Shifting is the most common behavior (59 percent of consumption) and means non-simultaneous use of your screens (using your laptop and then later watching TV). Stacking (29 percent) is using a second screen to conduct unrelated media tasks while watching TV. Finally, meshing (14 percent) refers to using a second screen to enhance the media experience by researching, talking about or engaging in the content being viewed on the television screen.


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