I came across a research report recently that, I’m afraid, poses more questions than it answers. I don’t doubt the validity of the numbers in the report released by Publicis’ ZenithOptimedia. But if the picture it creates in your mind is one of the ever-increasing absorption of people today (especially young ones) in video games, streaming TV shows and the like, that may be missing a much bigger point.
Fact is, now that “media” includes the Internet and embraces the ever-growing emphasis on “mobile” access, the time spent on media is no longer what we first imagine. Yes, you can read a newspaper or magazine, watch a television program, etc., and you are certainly consuming that media all the while.
But in my opinion, relating that activity to today’s attention paid to tablets, cell phones, etc., is comparing apples to oranges. Consider that office co-worker on her smartphone; that college student constantly sneaking peeks throughout the class,;or the pedestrian creating sidewalk chaos by plodding along, staring at the tiny screen in his hand. They’re not watching TV shows or movies, or checking out insightful feature articles, most likely.
Rather, they are doing things that, ten years ago, they would have been doing an entirely different way. They are shopping online instead of walking through a mall. They are talking with friends – having conversations traditionally held in person or over the phone. They are checking movie listings formerly found in the entertainment section of the daily paper.
Is this just a semantic difference? Perhaps. But I think that by simply quoting average daily minutes spent with the media suggests that people today are tuning out of reality and into imaginary worlds; I think not. This is simply a time shift from performing the same activities in other ways. That may, in fact, hold even more implications for those of us in advertising, marketing and public relations.
The research (and to many, this post) may generate a reaction of “duh.” But I think the complex scenarios it reflects are intriguing, indeed. Some advertisers, for obviously self-serving reasons, are running campaigns that praise and promote the traditional ways, like meeting people in person, or sending a card rather than an email. (Choice Hotels, Hallmark, and the like.) But of course the real answer is in finding ways to have an impact where your audience is now, rather than trying to haul them backwards in time. Like it or not, if you want your marketing to succeed, you’d better figure it out.