Commentary

Aperture: Just Can't Get Enough

Americans simply can’t get enough: Whether it is our passion to drive the cars we love, pushing up the price of gasoline toward $4, or our desire for a great college education, escalating the cost of tuition to $50,000 a year — or the desire to experience anything or, at times, everything the media world has to offer, driving up time spent with media to record highs. 

Based on a recent JupiterResearch survey, online users have increased their time with the medium to about 14 hours a week. How can it not increase? According to Nielsen, over 80 percent of all homes have a PC (92 percent of homes with teens), and 90 percent of those homes have Internet access.

From a marketer’s perspective, this may seem like a great opportunity. Growing media usage has usually been coupled with the ability to deliver targeted advertising to more people. The historic growth of cable TV enabled consumers to receive more news, information and entertainment. Marketers were given the opportunity to better target demographically and contextually while improving the efficiency of advertising delivery.

Today’s media marketplace is vastly different. The growth of new electronic media is rapid, practically outpacing the consumer’s ability to find a place for it. And with their insatiable appetite, Americans are doing it all, and more often that not, doing several things simultaneously.

In a recent BIGresearch study (SIMM 10 — July ’07) adults were asked the question: “When you go online, do you simultaneously listen to radio, watch TV, read magazines, etc.?”

Most Americans say that they are simultaneously online and doing something else, almost anything else! The same question was asked with “watching TV” as the base, with “reading magazines,” etc. You know the answer, because you live it: People like to do more than one thing at one time.

Some call this phenomenon multitasking. We like to call it trouble.  

Any study you read on the subject of multitasking indicates that it’s not worth it. In a study conducted in 2001 by David E. Meyer, Ph.D., of the psychology department at the University of Michigan, he and his associates concluded that inefficiencies resulted when individuals did more than one thing at one time. Switching from one task to another requires us to use what he calls an “executive control” process, found to be associated with the brain’s prefrontal cortex and other key neural regions. This process helps us determine where we are as we switch between doing more than one thing. In his experiment, subjects lost time when they switched from one task to another and that time loss escalated as the tasks became more difficult.

While Professor Meyer didn’t study media usage, we can infer from his study that as people are reading magazines and watching TV, or watching TV and using the Internet, their attention decreases and they don’t experience either medium effectively. It would then follow that their experience with brand marketing — advertising — is increasingly less effective as well.

Marketers must look at today’s environment through the eyes of their consumers. If they have a desire to experience more than one medium at a time, then we need to find new ways to simultaneously communicate with them. Aperture marketing encourages us to find the places and times that consumers are most open to receiving a message. Leading-edge tools need to be developed to recognize that the aperture might need to go through multiple media simultaneously before reaching the consumer. Today’s databases that effectively read one medium are dead-ended. Data fusion or, better yet, single source data will help us understand how the right marketing apertures behave in a multiple media exposure world.

Today’s consumers are “always on” and always open to media exposure. Today’s marketing challenge is to keep them open to message receptivity. We need to find new ways to not only discover their aperture moments, but to create those measures that will help us understand how these multiple media exposures can move them to action.

Steve Farella, president-CEO, and Audrey Siegel, executive vice president and director of client services, are cofounders of TargetCast TCM. (steve-audrey@targetcast.com)

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