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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Is Being Connected Hampering Media Effectiveness?

There is an epidemic spreading across the world.  People are increasingly fanatical about staying in touch and appear to have a mobile device in close proximity at all times.

Here are two recent personal examples that stunned me:

1) Last spring, I was proctoring an exam for university students. I had 31 exams and counted out the same number of students. So far, so good! Just prior to passing out the exams, I scanned the room. One student was looking out the window, apparently gathering her thoughts. Near her, a fellow was furiously going over his study notes one last time. The other 29 students were texting! Why? What could they be saying at that moment? Were they asking a friend when the old boy was going to pass out the exams?  Did they have to wait until exam time to send a message?
2) This past Friday evening my plane touched down after a business trip. Mine had been short but it was clear that there were some weary road warriors on board. As the first row of first class left the plane a strange thing happened. Three of the four people in the second row stood in the aisle and were texting. None of us could get through. Thirty seconds passed, then forty-five. I glanced around and a fellow diagonally across from me rolled his eyes but no one said a word. After a full minute passed, two of the people sent their text messages and left the plane allowing me and 100+ other people to leave. No one said a word. My thought was that the people blocking the aisles were rude and they should have waited thirty seconds to walk in to the terminal before starting their text messages.  Was I in a distinct minority?

This obsession with staying in touch makes me wonder about the effectiveness of our 2012 media world. Two separate studies that I have read this year have projected that 60-61% of viewers have a mobile device in hand while watching TV. A separate Pew Research study indicates that 38% keep the mobile handy “to occupy themselves during commercials.” Some 20% go to the web to verify something that they heard or saw on TV.  On the other hand, I suppose there must be some who use the Smartphone or other device to shop for something or purchase an item that they saw while viewing.

Very recently, a bright young professional suggested to me that people who have taped a show via their DVR may not jump commercials as much as they did a few years ago because they are using their mobile to do something else. Hard to prove but it certainly makes sense.

People in their 20s often use several media types at once—TV, Smartphone, E-mail, texting, etc. Geezers such as I are lucky if we can read a magazine while stealing glances at the TV in front of us.  Is anything really sinking in? How much of this wonderful technology, right at your fingertips, is destroying the effectiveness of your carefully crafted and often expensive advertising campaigns?

We have all fought advertising clutter for a few generations. Now the issue is media clutter, which may be seriously hampering all messages.

Right now, a few books are being published which address the effect of connectedness on us as people and how we relate to others. More scientific and thoughtful studies will emerge in a few years along with some scholarly articles. In the meantime, look beyond rating points and reach & frequency metrics. Is your message really getting through to the connected?

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com


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