Holiday Advice: Marketers Must Focus On Screen Planning

by , Dec 20, 2013, 1:10 PM
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For marketers, remaining cheerful during the holiday season is becoming ever more challenging. Certainly it’s the time of year when many retailers take in large proportions of their annual revenue, but to do so they are finding they must slash their way through marketing landscapes strewn with technology clutter. Attracting and maintaining the attention of consumers today requires increasing doses of creativity and constant amplification of marketing messages in nontraditional media.

One indicator of the impact of new media on attention spans is a 2013 survey result from Nielsen that found 81% of Americans almost always or always engage in some other activity while they are watching TV at home. Among 24-to-29-year olds, that proportion rises to 88%. Much of this second-screen activity is spent communicating with friends and followers in social networks and doing everything from browsing to texting, playing video games and reading online. The attention-grabbing impact of TV spots, therefore, is very likely diluted.

Conventional TV advertising takes another hit from DVRs. A Motorola Mobility report found that, while more than a third of weekly TV viewing by Americans is recorded content, 41% of what we record is never watched. Another diluting development, since many people are away from home during the holidays, recording their favorite shows, many of which, we discover, they’ll never watch.

Even those who do watch DVR programming may shift ad messages right off a cliff. A retailer that wants to target young couples with holiday TV ads, for example, is frequently going to find that they are recording those spots while out at parties and dining with friends and not watching them until after the new year. These timely messages are ones that don’t reach consumers in time.

Clearly, marketers must find more ways to reach their audiences, and one answer is simply to look around homes, offices, cars, roadsides and shirt pockets. In every setting, from every angle, screens are visible. On tablets, smartphones and laptops, for sure, but also on gas pumps, gym equipment, instrument panels and hotel lobby walls, screens are the genuine medium for today’s messages.

In establishing awareness, marketers long have realized the value of online advertising on computer screens—even simple banners, but websites and online publications now are only the first steps in profiting from digital ads. If we want to target consumers, we must focus as much effort on targeting their second screens as we do their primary ones (TVs or computers).

Americans are exposed to all sorts of screens all day long and well into the night. We arise to our smartphones, flick on the TV, check the readouts on the microwave and maybe the refrigerator at breakfast, ignite dashboard screens with an ignition key, stop for gas where videos today play at the gas pump, stare at our computers at work, pick a game to watch on a big screen during lunch at the sports grille, head home with video screens lighting the roadsides, catch one program while recording three others on our two DVRs, turn our smartphone alarms back on and lie down to ruminate about all the screens we’ve absorbed.

While perhaps exhausting for the consumer, daily life offers a variety of marketing opportunities on nontraditional screens. While working out, checking out or going out, screens are in front of us for minutes at a time. While fueling our cars, we can catch sponsored weather right at the pump.  While reading email or searching for a pizza, sponsored messages can capitalize on screens as well.

According to Nielsen and Lieberman Research, such nontraditional media can consistently deliver higher ad-message recall, and they provide new ways to target specific market segments with strategic ad spends.

We shouldn’t be missing consumers during the holidays just because they’re not home in front of their TVs or PCs. We can catch them anywhere in their travels and destinations on the screens around them, if we think and budget strategically.

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