It’s near-impossible to capture the undivided attention of today’s consumers who routinely multitask across a number of devices, media and channels during the course of a given day, says Richard Taylor. They might do online banking on a tablet with the radio on in the background; send tweets and post on Facebook while watching television; or flip through a magazine while watching some video clips cued up on YouTube.
Whether switching between devices and media over the course of a session, or using two or more at the same time (usually one in the foreground and another in the background), this customer can no longer be seen as a passive receiver of marketing messages. They are receiving, processing and transmitting messages differently than in the past, and this means that we need to rethink our approach to media planning.
Why do people multitask?
Before considering ways to adjust media planning strategies for multitasking consumers, it’s useful to consider why their behaviour is changing and how.
The why is partly because smartphones, tablets, and ubiquitous connectivity have made it easy, immediate and convenient to do more than one media task at a time. At the same time, the menu of channels and media has grown enormously over the past few years.
Now consumers in front of the television can reach for their smartphones for further distraction when there’s an ad break or the pace of the TV show they’re watching is flagging. They can turn this week’s episode o a popular series into a social experience by tweeting about it while watching. And if they have limited time for chores and entertainment in the evening, they can bank and shop online while listening to tunes on the radio.
The impact of multitasking
What is the impact of multitasking? From the point of view of the brand and the media planner, multitasking means that consumers are in more control of the marketing messages they engage with, more distracted, able to get through more tasks and information in a session, and more connected to their friends and peers.
Market and academic research alike indicates that brand recall is lower among consumers exposed to radio or TV ads while they’re consuming a secondary medium. What’s more, multitasking means that consumers are able to avoid marketing to a large extent by focusing elsewhere when ads try to get their attention.
As media planners and strategists, we may need to rethink our approach in order to reach audiences effectively. We must consider the roles of all media types our customers use within the context of media multitasking, and then think about how we can use them synergistically in brand campaigns.
Here are some ideas to start with
· Consider multichannel campaigns that funnel consumers to a single platform that allows for greater attention and engagement with commercial messaging. For example, use a radio ad to elicit interest and drive them to your online platforms for greater engagement.
· Think about which media will be in the forefront of your customers’ attention and which will be in the background. Tailor content appropriately by providing richer more detailed information online, and punchy and attention-grabbing ads for broadcast media.
· Try to be at as many touchpoints as possible so that you have some chance of reaching audiences whose attention has become fragmented. And ensure that you surround the consumer with consistent messaging so as to entrench brand fundamentals, as opposed to creating dissonance with mixed messaging.
The bad news is that multitasking fragments the consumer’s attention and makes us fight harder to win their interest and engagement. The good news is that it also opens up opportunities to create integrated campaigns where a combination of channels and media add up to more than the sum of the parts.
Getting it right demands understanding how consumers interact with different media on different devices, at different times of the day, and in different combinations. The media planner’s job is to bring it all together in a way that delivers the best possible ROI for the brand.
Richard Taylor works at Mediamark’s Lab42
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