Slingstuff

Digital Media Consumption Changes Consumer Behavior

Back in the day, when I started planning media at The Bloom Agency here in Dallas (now part of Publicis), the trick was finding your consumers where they were consuming media, be that TV, Radio, Print or Outdoor (yep, that was about it, and you could reach 96% of US Households by simply airing spots on the three major television networks). Part of the change today is that there is so much more media variety available (fragmentation), and part of the problem is that people are doing more than one thing at once.

The chart below from eMarketer indicates that TV and Radio media consumption has remained relatively flat overall, over the last five years, while print has gone down and digital, especially mobile, way up. Even more interesting is that this is not a net zero sum game; Media consumption has gone up by 1.7 hours per day in that period. How is that possible? There are still 24 hours in the day, and work and school haven’t gone away either (at least not in my family).

Average Time Spent Per Day With Major Media By Us Adults

The answer is that they are using multiple devices at the same time, with 84% of mobile users using their devices while they are watching TV.

Mobile Owners Use Devices While Watching Tv

What these people are doing is commonly known as “multitasking”. Most of the research conducted on this concept concluded that multitasking is not what most of us are doing, even though we talk about it a lot and it may seem like it. Realistically, what is happening most often is that we are “fast switching” from one thing to another.

Even computers can’t multitask, contrary to common belief. A good friend, Dwayne Spradlin, explained it to me this way: When you design software for a computer processor [he used bigger words and geekier terms], one of the first decisions you have to make is determining the minimum amount of time the CPU must work on a task before switching to something else. If you do not do this, the CPU will spend all of its energy switching from one task to another and never get anything done.

If computers can’t multitask (unless they have two CPUs), then it is unreasonable for us to assume that we can do it very well either, all ego aside.

So when our customers are “multitasking,” what they are really doing is paying attention to one or the other medium when your ad runs, or paying very little attention to either.

What do you think the chances are that they will miss your message? Pretty high, unless you find them where they are paying attention, or give them a good reason to do so.


In the last two decades our culture, and therefore our behaviors, have gone through a sea change. This is largely due to the impact of the Digital Age on how your customers are living their lives. It calls for a seismic shift in how we think about marketing, not just a tweak of our tactics.

Over the course of Slingshot’s 20th anniversary year we will examine this shift with a deep look at the new lenses through which all marketing and advertising decisions must be made. We will help you learn how to "be the butterfly" that captures attention in the age of distraction.

– Owen Hannay, Founder and CEO, Slingshot

Posted Thu, May 14, 2015 by Owen Hannay in Marketing in the Age of Distraction®