Editor’s note: Tyler Loechner is a reporter at MediaPost Communications, New York. This is an edited version of a post that originally appeared here under the title, “Pay attention to this: TV engages people half as long as digital, Neilson Lab study finds.”
Consumers may tune into TV on a regular basis but they mentally tune out rather fast in favor of the array of second screen options.
On average, television holds a consumer’s attention only 39 percent of the time – a rate that pales in comparison to the attention rates that laptops (70 percent), tablets (76 percent) and smartphones (77 percent) command.
That’s according to a new report from digital video ad tech firm Nielsen and YuMe.
Over a two-month period, Nielsen and YuMe conducted in-lab observations on 200 consumers in Las Vegas. The consumers were told to engage with any of the devices (TV, smartphone, tablet and laptop) as they would at home for 20 minutes, and their actions were recorded. Nielsen and YuMe ended their experiment with 50 hours of video footage and they claim the footage was then analyzed second-by-second to measure consumer attentiveness.
The television was on more than half the time (53 percent) during the experiment – tops among all screens. Laptops (48 percent) were second, followed by tablets (38 percent) and smartphones (17 percent).
Tablets and smartphones are both passively on at all times, sending users’ notifications and vibrations as alerts that something new is happening. That passive on mode – compared to televisions and laptops, which are of little to no use when off – may help partially explain why the TVs and laptop screens were turned on for significantly more time.
On the flip side, TVs have a passive effect once they are on. After a consumer turns the TV on and chooses a channel, there is little interaction required. On a smartphone, unless a video is being watched, constant interaction is required if the consumer wishes to engage with new content.
Perhaps that’s why consumer attention to television rapidly deteriorated shortly after the screen was turned on during the test. Nielsen and YuMe note that attention to television dropped from over half in the first four minutes to under 20 percent in the final 16 minutes.
In addition to overall attentiveness, the report also notes how much consumers paid attention to ads on the respective screens.
When multitasking, consumers become even more focused on the second screen. In multitasking situations – defined as situations in which consumers had at least two screens on at the same time – ads on television were only paid attention to 30 percent of the time, compared to 71 percent on laptops, 93 percent on tablets and 100 percent on smartphones.
Paul Neto, director of research at YuMe, acknowledged that the smartphone sample size was low, and that smartphones are likely more similar to tablets.
“Ad load was not controlled during the experience, thus they would occur as they naturally do on the devices being used,” Neto said to MediaDailyNews. “Ad attention is when an ad occurs while they were paying attention to the device thus in attention view. For example, respondents were paying attention to the television 39 percent of the time it was on, and during that time, 30 percent of total ads were seen on average. Thus, 70 percent of ads were missed as the respondents attention was elsewhere.”
Neto said attention was defined “as when the respondent [was] looking at the screen.”
“No one is debating that consumers are multitasking. This ethnographic study was specifically designed to garner insights into users’ behaviors and preferences while multitasking,” Neto said in an earlier statement. “Despite distraction levels among consumers, it will be important for brand advertisers to continue running campaigns cross-screen, as viewers continue to show they are more attentive on laptops, tablets, and/or smartphones while ‘watching’ TV.”
The study also found there’s significantly more multitasking done in group settings than when alone; consumers multitask four times more often when with other people.
Nielsen and YuMe also found that Millennials multitask 33 percent more than those over 35. However, among all age groups, the report found no significant relationship between gender and multitasking habits.