The TV-Web Tango

New data suggests that TV and the Internet have a deep, tangled and evolving relationship. Consumers still love the tube, even though they multi-task while watching and DVR their favorite shows. At the same time the digerati have finally convinced their elder brethren that behavior trumps demographics in media targeting.

Deloitte’s recent “State of the Media Democracy” Survey documented America’s continuing unbroken love affair with TV. Seventy-one percent of respondents said watching TV was their favorite thing. Eighty-six percent TV ads have the most impact on their buying decisions. Compare this to 47% who said online had the greatest influence; roughly half as much.

And yet nearly three-quarters split their time and attention even when parked in front of a screen. Forty-two percent are online, another 29 percent are on mobile devices and 26 percent are IMing or texting. With all this activity, TV watching feels like a background activity so it’s hard to imagine how much branding or ad copy is being received or actually absorbed or how memorable or influential those ads really are.

But just when you doubt it, think about the growing phenomenon of watching TV and simultaneously tweeting, commenting, reviewing or responding in real time. Think about the Oscars, the SuperBowl, the NCAA Basketball Tournament or the Grammys as occasions for split attention and all three screens operating at the same time focused on the same content engaging overlapping yet different sets of consumers.

This creates a much richer, more connected and more engaging experience than just staring or screaming at the television.  Some brands have begun to exploit this new behavior by mounting successful cross-channel promotions. There’s a huge share-of-mind media roadblock opportunity lurking here somewhere.

When you consider that more than 80 percent of Americans currently use a device that connects them to the web and a similar scale exists for the use of mobile phones, you get the picture of an ADD universe of consumers who can be concentrated or fragmented based on content, attitude and timing. Who said mass audiences are dead? You just have to corral them.

But when you do, sort them by what they do not by who they are.  Here the TV gang seems to have learned a lesson from digital marketers. According to new research spearheaded by CBS’ Research guru Dave Poltrack age and sex don’t matter when it comes to TV ad effectiveness. And my hunch is the same holds true online.

As a the result of a massive study of Nielsen and Catalina data, Dave came out squarely against the reigning conventional media wisdom by concluding, “There is no link, none, between the age of the specified demographic delivery of the campaign and the sales generated by that campaign… reliance on the 18 to 49 demographic is hazardous to all media and marketers partly because it doesn’t strongly correlate with purchases.”

To some this feels like a defensive play by broadcasters eager to prorect and preserve their lion’s share of ad dollars. To others this signals a shift in consumer behavior that integrates rather than edits media choices. Remember disruptive new technology has not actually killed off any traditional media.  New and old exist side by side interconnected in ways we are just beginning to understand.

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