Mobile Technology: The Real Threat (And Opportunity) To Advertisers

May 28, 2011

advertising, mobile, iphone, ipad



If an ad is shown on TV and no one hears it, does it make a sound?


Think about the last time you sat down and watched your favorite TV show without any distractions at all.  No cell phone, no laptop, no Words with Friends, no Facebook, no Twitter, nothing. Just you, the TV, and whatever it is the program you may be watching.


Can you actually recreate this scenario? If your answer is yes, then you are in some very rare company.


According to a new study conducted by IPG Media Lab and ad platform YuMe, a paltry 6% of viewers choose to watch TV distraction free.


Breaking down the numbers a little more, IPG found that more than 60% of all viewers watching TV spent time on mobile devices while 33% watched TV with their laptops open. 


Brian Monahan of Ad Age explains the most telling part of this study.


‘While much attention has been focused on the impact of DVRs, this new research  shows the real threat to attention is the smart phone and other increasingly ubiquitous distraction media.’


The most startling numbers for advertisers: 63% of TV ad impressions are ignored and just 25% of viewers were able to recall advertising they just had just watched.


While this might sound like a ‘sky is falling’ scenario for TV advertisers, there is some hope in the online world where only 50% of TV ad impressions are ignored and 38% of viewers can recall ads they just saw unaided.


When you think about it, online video is a more active user experience that takes place on something that is in fact one of the aforementioned distracters.


More simply put, it’s harder to distract someone if they are watching your product on a device they use as a distracter.


It is in the ‘familiar cadence of TV content’ that TV ads are getting lost.  When going from program content to ads, viewers have grown so conditioned to that experience, they automatically tune out anything else that is intended to grab their attention.


Les Luchter from Mediapost emphasizes ‘disruption’ as the reason why online ads are more effective at reaching an audience.


“Online video ads succeed in creating this systematic disruption due to short video ad bursts that help decrease ad avoidance without causing consumer backlash.”


When people are constantly ‘distracted’ by their smartphones or other mobile devices, how can advertisers expect their message to break through?


Business Insider writer Dan Frommer explains if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.


“Advertisers would be wise to leverage consumer ad experiences across different platforms simultaneously. Media companies and brands should try to reach people on their phones while watching TV whether that be through apps or complimentary experiences.”


Instead of desperately trying to get their attention with commercials, marketers should accept where viewers focus their attention focus and try to engage them there.   We already know audiences do better with interactive ad experiences; why not turn the distraction into a benefit? 


While the stats may suggest that advertisers should be growing more terrified of iPhone usage during programs; in reality they should be embracing that mobile technology.


Monahan sums it up perfectly in his article, ‘When It Comes To Ad Avoidance, the DVR is Not the Problem.’


“While distraction media is a threat to the value of video advertising, it also represents an opportunity to deliver a deeper companion experience to the on-screen content and ads. The consumers have the tools; it's up to the industry to give them compelling content.”