Are They Really Watching?

We know women -- specifically moms -- watch television. We have reams of Nielsen and other data to prove it, and the numbers suggest they're watching programs with their families. But, knowing my own experience as the mother of two incredibly active grade-school-aged children, I had to ask myself the question, "Are these moms really engaged in the programming when they're watching television with their families?"

As hectic as my day is working at an ad agency, there is no time when I'm more prone to distractions and multi-tasking than the hours between when I get home and when the kids go to bed (for real this time).

Though my television may be on, there's a good chance I lost the story line within five minutes of the show starting. And there's even less chance that I'm going to catch the commercials -- and I work in the industry. The only time I can truly enjoy watching television is once my kids finally fall asleep.

As one of my peers cited in a previous article, moms control $4 billion in annual ad spend, so getting their attention is critical to many marketers. In fact, we were recently tasked with developing a communications plan for a client whose core audience is moms with young children.



Considering my own experience watching (or rather not watching) television, we thought we should take a look beyond the syndicated data to see if other moms had similar viewing habits.

What the Research Shows
We conducted our own research of over 400 women who have children under the age of 12 living in their homes, and here's what we found:

  • 75% of respondents indicated they watch certain shows with their children.
  • 50% of respondents indicated that they're likely also doing other things while watching television with their children. (They're watching, but they're not likely to be engaged.)
  • Women with very small children indicated that it was "impossible for anyone to watch anything in the house when the kids are up" and women with older children experienced phases of "family TV viewing" where they watched shows targeted to their kids' age group between ages 4-7. As the kids get older, women become more engaged in the programming as they come to share favorite shows with their kids, such as "American Idol" and "Survivor."

But, for us, the most interesting insight was:

  • The respondents indicated that ultimately they can only truly engage in what's on the television when their children aren't present. (This was a consistent response among all respondents regardless of the age of the children.)
  • 81% of our survey respondents stated that they have "their shows" that they watch during what they deem to be their "me time." This offers them an "escape" from the daily pressures of work and family.
  • Women are also prone to "time-shift" their preferred programming by DVRing their favorite shows or visiting On Demand, network websites and to re-watch shows or catch episodes they've missed.

What this Mean for Marketers
If your communications plan calls for television advertising, then you will get the most value for your brand if you can communicate with your target during her "me time," when she's actually focused on the programming.

Second, consider supplementing your television messaging with online advertising on the sites she visits to re-watch or catch missed episodes of her favorite programs.

Finally, if she's making time to "engage" in watching her shows online, then consider engaging her during this time with tactics such as online sweepstakes or interactive quizzes, to extend the engagement beyond the programming itself.

In a world that is always "on" and a target audience that is in motion most of the day, you have to look beyond the numbers.

1 comment about "Are They Really Watching? ".
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  1. Carrie Vawter-yousfi from Crowd Science, April 1, 2010 at 4:03 p.m.

    I agree with what you're saying, I am a Mom of 2 young girls. TV time is my time, rarely can we watch a family show together. We try one night a week but it ends up being a kids show in one room and adult film in the other.
    If I can help your clients with audience profiling or Campaign Effectiveness, I invite you to check out my company

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