Engaging The Multi-tasker: 3 Ways People Consume Entertainment

Recently, I sat down with executives from CNN, Unicorn Media, and Acta Wireless to discuss mobile video as a marketing channel. While we generally agreed that mobile video advertising has a promising future -- and a not-too-distant future, at that -- we had a lively discussion around the various benefits of, and obstacles to, success. Louis Gump, VP of Mobile for CNN, brought up some interesting points about how consumers are using mobile in conjunction with their TV viewing. His comments made me think about the many experiences consumers can have involving TV and mobile devices, particularly with respect to the Presidential debates that CNN was airing that evening. It seems to me that there are three distinct engagement models for multi-taskers that marketers need to consider:

First, there's the truly linear experience: A consumer can simply watch the debate as it's aired live. The multi-tasking mobile usage in this case might involve tweeting their thoughts on a particular candidate or posting opinions to Facebook. In the case of CNN particularly, viewers could also follow the live partisan bloggers in real-time with the debate. This type of activity probably represents how the majority of multi-tasking viewers behave today. 



To engage this busy crowd, you must be mindful of their short attention span. Quick-hit video ads that instantly grab attention are the way to go, because if you don’t grab them in the first five seconds, you’ll probably never get them. You’ll also want to be sure, if you’re the broadcaster, that any relevant content on your site is easily shareable. With all the tweeting and posting this audience is doing, your content should be readily available to them. 

Next, there's a more engaging version of multi-tasking: capitalizing on the fact that a) the original broadcast occurs on all screens at all times and b) that 61% of viewers actually have an additional screen in hand while watching TV. 

This second type of engagement involves co-viewing apps like Zeebox, which customize the multi-tasking experience to provide complimentary content. This engaging app challenges recent statistics that show that in media multi-tasking, TV dominates attention. Zeebox more than levels the playing field, adding tremendous value to the second screen, without taking anything away from the first. 

With Zeebox, users can see what friends are viewing and share content related to that show. They can invite friends to watch what they’re watching, and using their Zeebox as a remote, can join in watching with friends. Because Zeebox leverages a contextual engine of sorts, it understands what’s being watched and serves up relevant links and products, including links to on-demand playbacks of the current show and past episodes. Through recently brokered partnerships, Zeebox even offers users the opportunity to interact with the talent behind shows like “TrueBlood” and “Boardwalk Empire.” 

There are already a million opportunities to engage multi-taskers via Zeebox. The company is innovating quickly, and has in the past year launched several second-screen campaigns that involve Twitter streams, online video, and e-commerce links to relevant products. 

Zeebox only launched in the U.S. in September, but it’s already shaping up to be quite a game changer. There’s a lot of buzz about this revolutionary app, and I’m excited to see the role mobile video ads will play in its success.

Finally, there's the catch-up viewer: who watched the baseball game Wednesday night, and is now catching up on the debates via the CNN widget on his mobile phone or tablet. This is the simplest engagement model for marketers to grasp. Really, the best way to engage this viewer is with straight video pre-roll advertising. Placing a great, relevant ad before the debate video is pretty old-school, but still pretty effective. Just ensure that ads load quickly and run smoothly, because viewers won’t bother to wait.

The way users consume media is changing rapidly, and the way we as marketers engage them needs to change, too. It’s exciting that companies like Zeebox have entered the market to encourage the shift and challenge our perception of screen dominance. As marketers -- and as agents of change -- we in the mobile video space need to pay attention and stay ahead of the curve if we’re going innovate in ways that keep multi-tasking viewers engaged. 

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