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Multi-Targeting Meets the Reality of Multi-Tasking

“No one is out there sitting around waiting to see your ad.” Words of wisdom from HMC Executive Creative Director, Bill Drew. Rather, consumers are continuously on the go, simultaneously squeezing in entertainment, chores, and socializing, selectively dividing their attention among many tasks.

HMC’s recent proprietary research on television viewing corroborated that Vermonters are multi-tasking while watching TV, no group more than the highly sought Vermont Millennials. Close to 60% of Vermonters ages 18–24 use social media while watching television and well over half browse the web (not including social media). They also are spending time with friends, exercising, cooking or reading while watching TV.

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Marketing messages can still be effective in this context. In fact, new viewing habits open new opportunities for reaching the right people in a meaningful way. The formula for doing so, though, has become more complex. In the current reality, marketers must consider not only creative factors and individual viewing traits, but we must also understand and leverage the environments within which these factors exist in order to break through distractions.

In his recent talk at The Market Research Event 2015 titled “Cultivating Ad Receptivity; Strategies for Countering Ad AvoidanceDuane Varan, Chief Research Officer of ESPN Media and Advertising Lab, argued that placing television ads based on traditional context—program, pod architecture, platform, format—is important but not enough. Successful placement must also allow for context around the viewer. What device are they using? What is their disposition and state of mind while viewing? How is social influence impacting this state?

Regardless of genre, Varan said, think about the implications of the four viewing states: reluctant, relaxed, excited, and favorable. As implied, a reluctant television viewer (think husband unenthusiastically watching The Bachelor with his wife) is not only less interested in the program but is also less likely to engage with ads, even if the ad execution is crafted specifically with him in mind. Even if the ratings say he’s watching. On the other hand, an excited viewer transfers that state of mind into the break and is more receptive to ad messages. Think of going into a commercial break after watching a thrilling segment of The Walking Dead. The viewer is stimulated by the action, resulting in a receptive state of mind when commercials air.

Consider seat belts. According to the Vermont Department of Public Safety (VDPS) and Vermont Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP), it’s clear that the group least likely to buckle up is young, rural, skeptical, truck-driving men. Based on our work with VDPS and GHSP, conveying a seat belt safety message to this viewer requires an interesting TV spot, but it’s more than that. For example, our viewer is in a prime position to absorb the message while watching Sunday night football with his friends, in an excited and favorable state of mind, and concurrently noticing a digital banner ad while checking stats online. If the next morning he hears a radio spot when listening to a game re-cap on sports radio and sees a social ad while posting Monday morning quarterbacking on Facebook, we just may convince him that buckling up can save a life. Buying media for the whole viewer—not only his demographics and related television ratings, but his interests, motivations, and behaviors—are imperative to reaching him with the right message at the right time. As Bill said, this Vermonter isn’t waiting around to see our ad, but he doesn’t have to be. We’ll bring it to him when it matters most.

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