Trends: Media multitaskers

As consumers increasingly watch TV and use the internet simultaneously, marketers must think creatively to get their brand messages across to the surprisingly wide spectrum of media multitaskers.

Households are no longer gathering on the sofa and devoting their full attention to the latest episode of a Saturday night show. Many people are now turning on the television while simultaneously booting up their laptop. They even find time to do this while downloading the latest iPhone application.

Europe is quickly turning into a continent of media multitaskers, according to research made available exclusively to Marketing Week. Data from the European Interactive Advertising Association (EIAA) suggests that this breed of consumer acts very differently to those who do not use multiple media at the same time.

The media multitaskers buy more online compared with those who do not media multitask and are more likely to change their mind about a brand following online research. The EIAA calls this generation of multitaskers “super consumers”.

The number of media multitaskers has increased by 38% since 2006. Almost a quarter (22%) are now watching television and going online simultaneously at least once a week – a number that exceeded the EIAA’s estimate before the study took place.

This type of consumer is not just confined to a young audience. All age groups are becoming media multitaskers – those in the 55-plus category have seen a 75% increase in media multitasking since 2006. While one quarter of European media multitaskers are under 35, 13% are aged 45 to 54 years old.

Alison Fennah, executive director at the EIAA, says once a consumer becomes a simultaneous user of the television and internet it changes their overall media behaviour.

“They absorb all of these media messages and it turns them into a broader internet user; one that does lots of different things online and spends much more time online [compared with those who do not use multiple media simultaneously],” she reveals.

Media multitaskers’ minds are ripe for moulding, according to the study. Almost half (48%) of multitaskers admit to actively changing their mind about a product compared with 36% of non multitaskers.  

The EIAA claims this is good news for brands as it indicates a growing audience of active and engaged consumers that can be targeted more effectively. Fennah explains: “On the one hand, these consumers are buying more across a real variety of price points and product segments. But they’re also changing their mind more about what brand to buy along the way.”

The propensity for consumers to change their mind varies between categories. Multimedia consumers are more likely to switch brands when booking a holiday or buying an FMCG product, but it’s much harder to convince consumers to switch brands when buying a big-ticket item such as a car.

Those who like to merge their media are more likely to look at branded websites (57% versus 46% of non-multitaskers), price comparison sites (57% versus 47%) and customer website reviews (54% versus 41%). Multitaskers use these channels when researching new products.

Now the internet enables word of mouth to spread so quickly between consumers, there is a real need for brands to manage their reputation online, according to the EIAA.

Consumers now view the internet as an empowering tool to research brands, and 60% of media multitaskers feel able to buy better products as a result, compared with 46% of non-multitaskers.

Those who use multiple media are also heavy communicators online. More than half (51%) use instant messaging and 53% communicate via social networks compared with 27% and 33% respectively among non-multitaskers. Media multitaskers also use their mobiles for more than calls, with 29% sending emails via their handsets.

Fennah argues that marketers must have a presence where multitaskers roam online. “The marketing strategy of individual brands becomes even more important because they’ve got to catch them across all of the different touchpoints.”  

She predicts that those advertisers that embrace media convergence will streak ahead, exposing those who fail to acknowledge the changing ways media is being consumed.

She sums up: “The gap between the winners and losers will become more prominent because they will get more exposure through a multichannel campaign and more potential for getting it right by reaching their target customers.”

EIAA’s Tips for Brand advertisers

1 Embrace convergence

Consumers are increasingly meshing  their media and accessing more information and performing a greater number of tasks online.

Media multitaskers are more active and engaged online than others and by better understanding the nuances of their behaviour, you can adapt marketing strategies and benefit from more effective targeting of a prime audience – particularly when developing multimedia campaigns.

2 Socialise campaigns

As more media multitaskers communicate via social networks and establish their virtual presence online, there are a growing number of routes you can use to target them. It is important, therefore, to make sure your creative messaging and campaign is consistent across all platforms and online elements.

3 Think creatively in context

With the simultaneous consumption of TV and internet, media multitaskers will have more brand messages fighting for their attention. It is important to ensure that campaigns are eye-catching and inventive, but most of all relevant, to stand the best chance of achieving brand stand-out.

4 Tap into new technologies and trends

Media multitaskers are technologically savvy and likely to be early adopters of new technology. To develop campaigns that appeal to this market, it is important to stay on top of what trends are “hot” and how they might evolve in the future.

5 Location, location, location

Media multitaskers are leading the way in the development of mobile internet devices and are accessing the web from a widening spectrum of locations and handsets. Bear this in mind when developing campaigns – the opportunity is there to target media multitaskers via the online medium while they are at a fixed point or on the move.

6 Timing can be everything

While they are heavy users of the internet generally, media multitaskers are most likely to go online during the evening. This is worth bearing in mind when planning the execution of a campaign as they are a captive and engaged audience.

7 Understand how the media multitasker and their use of media is evolving

The media multitasker is already a heavily engaged internet user and it is important for advertisers to understand how their simultaneous consumption of media is evolving and becoming more complex. The internet now offers a much more varied environment where multitaskers are making the most of information, communication and commerce opportunities.

8 Communicate to convert

Media multitaskers are heavily influenced by “word of web” (word of mouth online) and look to the websites of well-known brands, price comparison sites, expert comments and reviews online to provide them with the information they need to form an opinion – especially when looking to buy online. It is important that your brand, product or service has the right online presence and is well represented in internet conversations because this will help drive sales.

9 Monitor and manage brand reputation

The rise of “word of web” gives media multitaskers more power to communicate their own thoughts and opinions online and means that brands can be both heralded and criticised more easily. It is therefore important to be aware of how your brand is being represented and discussed online and to learn how to manage this effectively.

10 Look for learnings

Online advertising benefits from its ability to be targeted, timely and relevant. Brands are increasingly pushing the boundaries of creativity, innovation and results through effective internet marketing. Look at how others are using the internet for inspiration. EIAA has a case study library which can be accessed via