Thursday, September 3, 2009

Living in an age of distraction

One of the reasons why advertisers have shifted away from traditional approaches to advertising and traditional advertising mediums is because consumers—particularly young ones—are so distracted. One source of that distraction is the simultaneous use of multiple media, what is commonly referred to as multitasking. Media research firm Nielsen confirms in a recent study that, indeed, more than half of American consumers use the Internet and tune into television at the same time. This is nothing to celebrate in my opinion, as each of these mediums “utilizes” the human brain in different ways: television relaxes the brain; and computer use stimulates the brain. While I recognize that many consumers are consuming multiple media simultaneously, I’m not sure—over the long term—how this affects brain development. A couple of years ago I did a study on this phenomenon and the findings suggest that consumers find it very difficult to “get,” that is understand, advertising messages when they are multitasking with multiple media. You can read the study here. So the fact that 57% of us are engaged in this behavior is not good news for advertisers. Living in an age of distraction does not make life any easier.


vmnotarangelo said...

I agree that we do live in an age of distraction and can certainly understand why this is negative for the advertising industry. I know that I frequently "multitask," as do my roommates. Furthermore, I tend to pay even less attention to the television when commercials are running, rather than the show or movie I'm "watching."

John said...

I feel a little differently about that... It seems to me that commercials tend to be louder and more attention grabbing nowadays, and thus are more distracting to me than anything else. I will be surfing channels and be distracted by a particularly colorful or inventive ad, and stop to see what the commercial is for. Maybe this can be blamed on my relatively short attention span, but i think that it has more to do with the fact that the advertising agencies are becoming ever more inventive with their commercials so that they can cause distraction instead of work against it.

Casey said...

Advertisers definitely realize that people now more than ever try to avoid advertising as much as possible, which leads them to create Ads that try to grab our attention. But it seems evident that when most people are watching television, they are also doing another activity as well, such as talking to a friend, using their computer, text messaging, doing homework, or something else. Many consumers are consuming multiple media simultaneously, which leads me to think that we really do live in an age of distraction. This conclusion does not mean that we as consumers are immune to advertising, but rather it just means that advertisers are using other means to reach their target consumer. Since many people, especially myself, use their computers while watching television, this has factored into advertiser's decisions to place their ads on websites. Even though we live in an age of distraction, we will never be able to avoid advertisements completely; advertising is everywhere.

Anonymous said...

I think it is very interesting that ONLY 57% of us engage in simultaneous use of multiple media. I thought the number would be much higher. When I think about my friends and their computer and television habits, they are almost always doing both at the same time.
Jut a few weeks ago during the Video Music Awards, four others girls and I sat in front of the television for three hours with our computers on our laps, typing homework and “face-booking” during commercial breaks. This past weekend on my visit home I walked into my living room to find my brother playing a hand held video game in front of the television, which had cartoons on. Even when my dad is doing his bills on his computer in his office the television is almost always on as well. I think the simultaneous use of multiple media is becoming more and more common. I would not be surprised if the percentage of people doing it increases in the future.
-Julia DePaul