Thursday, November 22, 2007

How much attention are we really giving what is on our screens?

Research conducted in the US by Burst Media has found that more than eight in ten internet users also do some offline activity while they are online. And topping the list of other activities, with three out of five internet users doing it? - Watching the television. I have to admit that this is something I do at home on a regular basis, and I know I’m not the only one.

After television, the next most popular offline activity to multi-task with was found to be job-related activities (with 33% doing this), then reading a book (31.1%), reading a magazine or newspaper (29.7%) and talking on a mobile phone (23.6%). Again, I can put my hands up to doing most of these, although I haven’t read a book at the same time since my uni days and I would usually only read something else at the same time if I was working on something, but it has been done.

What does all this mean for marketers who are using the internet as a primary channel in their campaigns though? Well, as Debra Williamson, senior analyst at e-marketer remarks, we should "Keep in mind that many of these activities are not representative of true multitasking", indeed "It's one thing to go online with the radio playing in the background, but it's all but impossible to read text on a Web page and in a newspaper at the same time. Consumers are switching focus, rather than multitasking." "Still, anytime your attention is divided, your ability to recall and comprehend ad messages is impacted."

So what can marketers do then to combat this lack of attention from those reading their messages online? The advice it seems is to tackle your target market from more than one angle, using different types of media. As Ms Williamson points out, "TV and the Internet have long been multitasking buddies," and so "It makes sense to create ad messages that resonate across media."

Although the data collected was from US online users, I would hazard a guess that the same type of data would be found here in the UK if online users were polled. And aside from these results having an impact on those using the internet as their primary channel of communication, it also has an impact on those using other channels such as newspapers, television, etc, as it also means that while they are engaged in viewing/reading those messages they are also turning their attention elsewhere at the same time.

I concede that this research isn’t actually telling us anything we don’t already know, but it’s always good to be reminded that your customers are going to have other messages vying for their attention at the same time, whether you are marketing to consumers or businesses. Because at the end of the day, ultimately you are marketing to human beings, who will have more to do with their day than sit down and digest the message you wish to send them.

So, lesson to be learned? Make your marketing as good as it can be and use more than one channel to put your message across. Otherwise it’ll get lost in the clutter of everyday life... Now, did your attention hold out this far?

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