June 05, 2014
The Second Screen Mystery
Maybe you can help me understand something.
I often read that TV advertising isn't as powerful as it once was because people are sometimes distracted by other media while they're watching TV. They're tweeting, or they're on Facebook, or they are doing something else on line.
While I haven't seen any research that confirms this hypothesis, it seems logical to me and I think it's probably true.
Here's what I don't understand. Why isn't the same thing true for online advertising?
If a "second screen" distracts us from TV advertising, why doesn't it distract us from online advertising? If we're watching TV and we're on Facebook simultaneously, doesn't it seem curious that Facebook distracts us from TV but TV doesn't distract us from Facebook?
Is there something unique about online advertising that makes it immune to the second screen effect? If so, I'd love to know what that magical thing is.
You see, here's the thing. If multi-tasking is really as damaging as our chattering media experts seem to think it is, then it is having a far more deleterious effect on online advertising than on TV.
We know how much time the average person spends watching TV and we know how much she spends on line. According to Nielsen's Cross-Platform Report for the 1st quarter of this year, the average adult (18+) spent about 36 hours a week watching TV and about 5 hours a week on line.
I don't know how much time the average person spends doing both simultaneously, but it doesn't matter. Whatever the number is, it affects online advertising 7 times as much as it does TV advertising.
Let's say the average person spends 2 hours a week double-screening. That means she is distracted from TV by a second screen 2 hours out of 36, or about 6% of the time. But she is distracted from the web by a second screen 2 hours out of 5, or 40% of the time.
If you're bad at math, here's what it looks like visually.
So if multi-tasking is bad for advertising, the pernicious effect has to be way badder for online advertising than for TV advertising. In fact, it has to be 7 times badder.
It's funny that I never hear about this from agency media experts or read about it in the trade press.
It couldn't be that these meatballs will thoughtlessly swallow and regurgitate any bullshit the online ad industry feeds them, could it?
Nah, I didn't think so.