Google: Smartphones the answer to distracted TV audiences

By Duncan Craig | 30 August 2012

A Google report has found 90% of consumers interact with multiple devices at the same time, placing more pressure on advertisers to execute compelling cross-media campaigns, especially in the mobile arena.

The survey carried out in the US and undertaken by Ipsos and Sterling Brands confirmed that television advertisers face increasing threats from the proliferation of devices in the home, as smartphones take over as a main information source.

The report said “smartphones are the backbone of our daily media interactions” and are now the common starting point for activities across multiple screens. Television is a major catalyst for search, and appears to be a major opportunity for brands to boost their engagement rates.

“With simultaneous usage, we found that TV no longer commands our undivided attention, with 77% of viewers watching TV with another device in hand,” the Google report said. “In many cases people search on their devices, inspired by what they see on TV.”

The good news for advertisers is that 17% of those surveyed said they would use their smartphone to search for information after watching a television commercial. Six percent will look at a television ad on their computer after seeing it on the TV screen.

There are two main ways that consumers undertake multi-screen activity; sequential screening where people move from one device to another to complete a single goal, and simultaneous screening where multiple devices are used at the same time.

“Sequential screeners will start interacting with you on one device and then pick up where they left off on another, so making experiences seamless between devices is key,” Google said. “Additionally, cross-media campaigns can help you make the most of consumers’ simultaneous usage across screens.”

The survey showed 80% of the searches that happen on smartphones are spur-of-the-moment, and 44% of these spontaneous searches are goal-oriented.

In addition, marketers and advertisers need to take advantage of new consumer internet search behaviour and make it easy for people to find brand content and information when they move to the next device. That means using search marketing keyword techniques to ensure your brand is front and centre of the search experience.  

“For marketers, this combination of device accessibility and spur-of-the-moment usage means there are now more opportunities to connect with consumers, so businesses have to make sure they’re present and optimized across multiple screens,” Google said.

The top activities performed when sequentially screening between devices are browsing the Internet, social networking, online shopping and searching for information. The most common dual-screen combination is smartphone and television, followed by the smartphone and the laptop or personal computer. The survey was taken over a 48 hour period in three US cities.

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