Image of four people at a table all working on phones and multitasking.

How to engage multitasking, multiplatform consumers

The avalanche of mobile services and apps has led to a sizeable shift in media consumption towards mobile. But the smartphone is not always competing for people’s attention. To the contrary, a new report from Deloitte tells us the smartphone enhances TV viewing experience. But this bright spot can’t disguise the brand imperative to re-think advertising to engage audiences, not annoy them.

Drawing on a survey of 2,131 U.S. consumers Deloitte’s 11th Digital Democracy Survey highlights how key audience segments including Millennials, Gen X and Gen Z (in other words, a broad spectrum of user ages 14 and above) interact with mobile, video, TV and the Internet.  While the findings are not surprising, they are an important confirmation of people’s attitudes and behaviors and the trends sure to shape the future of media.

Optimizing Experiences

“The shift to streaming, mobile, on-demand services and personalization are significant opportunities in 2017,” Kevin Westcott, vice chairman and U.S. media and entertainment leader, Deloitte LLP, says in a press release. “Brands can bring new value, services and incredibly entertaining content to the empowered consumers across all age groups in a manner that can be monetized.”

But it won’t be a walk in the park. Yes, there is ample proof that American consumers streamed, “binge-watched” and demanded more media than ever in 2016. However, there is also increased reliance on social networks (and friends) to make purchase decisions.  Social recommendations are proving “more influential” than traditional advertising, the report says. For example, nearly one-third (27%) of Gen Z respondents say an online recommendation from someone within their social media circles can highly influence a buying decision.

Multitasking also makes it tougher for traditional media, such as TV, to grab (and keep) audience attention. The shift to second-screening may enhance the viewing experience. (I’m thinking here of the uptick in mobile app interaction and social media sharing that coincides with the broadcast of cult shows like The Walking Dead). It also detracts from the effectiveness of TV advertising. The verdict from Deloitte: “Enlisting online influencers and creating social buzz” are likely the more effective avenue for getting through to younger consumers.

Remastering Marketing

Another barrier that companies need to overcome is the quality of their advertising – or rather the lack of it. The report reveals the vast majority (more than 80%) of consumers will skip an online video ad if allowed. And 67% of consumers are tuning out mobile ads on their phones because they find them irrelevant. Against this backdrop, a large percentage of respondents are reaching to ad-blocking tech to snuff of unwanted advertising. (Although to be fair, their motivation is linked with the desire to improve the speed and performance of the content and videos consumed online and on mobile.)Image of deloitte-report

Amid the doom-and-gloom data that leads us to believe consumers hate ads, a few surprise findings (buried on page 12) show the way for brands to improve the experience for consumers and the effectiveness of their advertising. More than half of all consumers say they would be willing to receive advertising on their smartphones based on location.  Significantly, 46% said they would pay more attention to an ad if they were able to make the call on whether they view it or skip it.

It’s a report that reinforces what has become my mantra: People want what they want – when, how and where they want it. Consumers crave more geographic relevance in their advertising and they want more control over the advertising they have to view as a condition to access and enjoy content. Clearly, brands are well advised to adapt their advertising approach to these consumer requirements. There is no guarantee the changes they make will trigger a conversion, or win customer loyalty. But it’s sure to grab at least some attention. And in a world where consumers are multitasking and massively reliant on their social circles, a little attention can mean major traction.

This article first appeared on the Digital Content Next.

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