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Media Buying Trends Impacted by Multi-Screen Consumer Behavior: Google Study

It’s no secret. Everyone’s simultaneously using smart phones, tablets/iPads, laptops and TVs to consume information, shop, find answers and have fun, and the media buying implications are significant. buffy the vampire slayer with smart phone and facebook logo

That little non-secret is also the impetus behind a recent study of digital media consumption conducted by Google, Ipsos and Sterling Brands.  One of their general findings? The days of viewing marketing strategies as purely “digital” or “traditional” are over. Multi-device usage and media consumption now clearly show that integrated strategies are a must.

As always, Vision Media is concerned with how this impacts media buying.

A summary of the Google findings follows, then I’ll take a deeper dive into implications for TV, radio, print and digital advertising.

Multi-Device is Now the New Normal

One of the things that really popped in the Google study was that 90% of our media consumption happens across four screens – TV, desktop/laptop, tablet and mobile phone. That’s 4.4 hours of every day for the people surveyed.

Interestingly, that time allowance for digital doesn’t offer much time for reading paper books and magazines, or listening to the radio. (Car time is a big deal, and I’ll address that in more detail below). Digital has essentially crowded out traditional media activities, and it seriously encroaches on existing habits like passive TV watching.

The Google study found that most people start the media consumption process on a smart phone. They typically spend 43 minutes in a TV session, but 77% of that time they’re using a smart phone or tablet at the same time. (Side note: Remote controls are migrating to the smart phone and tablet, too. TV manufacturers, Google, Apple, Microsoft and the rest are driving this).

One of the more critical issues for Google’s search and advertising model is how people are doing this. Whether the viewer is watching reality TV, sports, a movie or the history channel, they’re also searching for additional information in what Google terms “micro-moments.” They search for clothing that the stars are wearing, recipes and ingredients, stats on players, ticket prices, information about locations and trips, and on and on. They’re also communicating with friends and sharing information about products, services, media and experiences.

These “micro-moments” become opportunities for advertisers to engage with customers throughout the day. In the media buying world, we need to keep this “workflow” or consumption process constantly in mind.

“Search” as Glue

These days, consumers increasing rely on search to move between devices. This is important. The one common thread (which is important to Google) becomes the search function. You can pick it up on any device and come back to it, like a bookmark. You know you’ll always have that reliable starting point, even if the devices are not tightly synced (browser search/history/bookmark sync, for example – or app sync functions across multiple devices).

So, Google is interested in advertising that follows users from device to device. They want to make sure they’re inserting relevant information across all of the screens. It’s probably why they’re moving into hardware, too (the Asus Nexus 7 and Motorola projects come to mind).

Media Buying and the New Multi-Device Model

Companies that buy media need to consider the whole experience as part of their media buying strategy. It means different things to different businesses, of course. Consumer goods are frequently embedded into TV programming these days. TV commercials are running Facebook promotions. Radio ads drive people to social media, web URLs and SMS hooks. Advertising at events often start engagements on the smartphone by initiating “short code” texting contests and promos, too.

It’s really a multi-avenue proposition on multiple devices. An ad on TV might trigger a search on a smart phone that returns some PPC results and some organic search returns. Conversely, a radio ad in the car might motivate a driver to pull out his phone at a stop light and schedule his DVR software to record a show.

It’s smart to think of the phone as the starting point, however. The Google study showed how the phone is the most convenient and frequently accessed device in most situations.

Think About the Car as a Device, too

If you think about the car as a device with specific limitations that will also inform strategy. One interesting fact remains. According to the Pew Research Center, radio use has remained fairly constant over the past decade. People are listening to AM, FM, Pandora, iHeartRadio, Spotify and more. They’re consuming more radio media while they drive, walk, bike and run.

So, radio strategy needs to consider the stopping points and the “micro-moments” that happen after the workout, at the red light, and after the commute. Invariably, the phone will be whipped out, the tablet accessed and the laptop booted up.

Consistent Stories are Key

The real important take-away from a content standpoint is that stories need to be consistent across all touchpoints. You need to run ads that tightly coordinate with the search results you’re showing and the PPC campaigns you’re running. Ask yourself, if a person sees my TV commercial or hears my radio ad and search for my product by name, do they have a seamless, motivating experience? Or, are they confused by that experience? Do the offers sync up? Is the promise consistent?

You need to think about how one experience migrates to another device and how that content might be used on another device during the same session. People are juggling these things with increasingly dexterity.

Take a look at the Google study and think about it in the context of your media buying plans. And, as always, if you have any questions about strategy be sure to reach out to us for more insights and assistance.

Stephen Reed is the CEO and founder of Vision Media. Based in Redmond, Washington and established in 2002, Vision Media specializes in local and national media buying, strategy and consulting.
  1. Phil Dunn

    This is a great example of these issues in action — from MTV: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390443589304577633664201676608.html?mod=WSJ_hps_LEFTTopStories

    “MTV’s Synchronized Ads Target Multitaskers” – Wall Street Journal

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