Over the last few years, consumers have increased, not decreased, the time they spend watching television content. This might sound like good news for advertisers, save for two important caveats. First, while attention time dedicated to TV content has been rising, this is not the case for people actually paying attention to the ads on the screen. Second, when consumers are watching TV they are increasingly dividing their attention between the TV set and other devices, particularly tablets and other mobile devices. A 2011 Nielsen Co. survey showed that as much as 40% of time watching TV is spent on such media multitasking activities, and it’s likely that this behavior has accelerated over the past three years.
While many advertisers are rightly nervous about multitasking, there could be new opportunities to benefit from this trend. My recent working paper with researchers Jura Liaukonyte and Kenneth Wilbur tries to pinpoint what, exactly, these benefits might be – and how they can be achieved.