‘Consumers to spend more time on digital than TV in 2014’

The time UK consumers spend with digital media including laptops, tablet and mobile phones is set to overtake the time spent viewing TV in 2014 for the first time ever, according to eMarketer estimates (see full table at bottom of this page).

EMarketer predicts UK consumers will spend more time consuming media on digital devices than on TV sets in 2014.

The prediction is a consumption shift some parties say means marketers need to quickly undertake a “radical” reinvention of their organisations and the way they communicate with consumers, although other sectors of the market have warned against equating the increased time spent with mobile and digital devices to a jump in media spend on those channels.

EMarketer has predicted that the average UK adult will spend more than 3 hours 41 minutes per day online or on non-voice mobile and tablet activities this year, compared with the 3 hours 15 minutes spent watching television.

Time spent with mobile and tablets in particular will come to represent more than half TV’s share of total media consumption time and will make up nearly half of digital media time as a whole, while desktop and laptop time is “plateauing”, eMarketer says.

The research house bases its estimate on a meta-analysis of “thousands of data points and dozens of sources” of qualitative and quantitative data from research firms, government agencies, media outlets and company reports, weighing each study on “methodology and soundness”. The “time spent” reflects simultaneous media consumption, meaning if a consumer was watching TV while checking emails, both would be included in the total.

“The year of mobile is in the rear-view mirror”

The research indicates that while for years the marketing industry has been talking about the “year of mobile”, it is now in the “rear view mirror – that was the year of mobile”, according to eMarketer vice president and editorial director Ezra Palmer.

Mark D’Arcy, chief creative officer at Facebook Creative Shop says: “The power of having this [research] is that it solidifies these first person observations we all have about how people are behaving…the fact that this shift not a surprise does not make it any less important.

“The shift now for marketers should not just be ‘people are spending more time here so I should shift more money this way’…but to recentre around how people live their lives…to not reinvent is not just a missed opportunity, it could be a serious missed opportunity.”

D’Arcy says the question he gets asked most from marketers is “how do I reorganise to make mobile my centre of gravity?”. He responds by advising on a number of “simple” things such as encouraging marketers approve work on their phones, in the same way the industry used to listen to radio ads in the car before they went live.

Mark Darcy Facebook
Facebook’s Mark D’Arcy says not reinventing around mobile could be a ‘serious missed opportunity’ for marketers.

What is TV in a mobile world?

However, Richard Marks, owner of media consultancy business Research the Media, says the headline eMarketer finding that digital has overtaken TV underlines the “problem” that the industry has not transformed from a world “where you could say TV and understand what people mean”.

He adds: “If I watch Game of Thrones on Sky Go, is that digital or TV? In old media, a media was the system that delivered it – radio, TV, newspaper – but digital has come along and that all breaks down because there’s now the type of content, devices and transmission. 

“We need to move from a media centric approach where we take these silos and map people on to them to a consumer centric approach. I don’t believe brands should be [mobile or digital first] because I don’t understand what the word ‘mobile’ means as a concept – [and old reporting measures such as RAJARS and TV overnights continue to] measure without acknowledging these are the same people”

That confusion may explain why spend has not followed the apparent platform shift from TV to digital devices as quickly. UK TV ad spend grew 14.5 per cent year on year in third quarter of 2013, compared with the 13.7 per cent growth in internet advertising, according to the latest Advertising Association/WARC figures.

’Infrastructure legacy is holding marketers back’

Facebook’s D’Arcy says marketers may not be shifting spend towards mobile and digital as quickly as consumers are shifting in terms of behaviour because of an “infrastructure legacy”.

He adds: “We find it hard to believe that something so light that we keep in our pockets is so powerful as we have these legacy notions of different canvasses having different weight…once we get more comfortable we won’t think of mobile as a thing, it’s the thing and when that realisation happens I think you have to reinvest not just money but thought processes around what you’re doing as a brand that deserves to be on these devices.

“If you think of every single start-up that gets backed, do you know any that aren’t built on or around mobile? I’m sure there’s some examples but where do you think the money is going? If you pitch an idea that’s not built around this centrally, why would investors put money behind it? They want businesses built for the future and as a CMO your first challenge should be to build your marketing organisation around this.”

The ’facile argument’ of equating time spent with media spend

Thinkbox’s Lindsey Clay says marketers should look to media effectiveness studies before rushing to reorganise around mobile and digital.

Lindsey Clay, CEO of TV marketing body Thinkbox is – predictably – more cynical about the impact of the research, saying that were the eMarketer prediction true it would mean estimates other respected research houses such as comScore “would be out by more than 100 per cent”. 

Regardless, she says to equate consumer time spent with a type of media with the amount of revenue that should be spent by brands is a “facile argument” and that marketers should instead look to the effectiveness of spend, combinations of different media and context when deciding on their future media plans. She also added that consumer sentiment towards online and mobile advertising is not as positive as some more established advertising mediums.

Indeed, recent econometric studies from both Thinkbox – conducted by Ebiquity – and the Radio Advertising Bureau found TV was the most effective advertising medium, with the former research finding that on average every £1 invested in TV is likely to result in a net profit of £1.70.

Emarketer 2014 digital overtake TV