TV Remains King of Time Spent but Mobile More Effective Ad Medium

TV remains the king of all US media channels in terms of time spent -- but it's not necessarily quality time. Our attention is increasingly split; simultaneous media usage is growing. In addition there's considerable reason to believe that TV advertising is now less effective than mobile advertising.

As a real-world case-in-point that is representative of larger trends, my 13 year old never watches TV shows (on Hulu Plus) without a smartphone so that she can check Instagram and text friends at the same time (during commercials).

According to a new Nielsen "State of the Media" report, "The average American consumes nearly 39 hours of content each week on the TV set, on the computer and on mobile." The bulk of that time is with TV but roughly 40% of smartphone and tablet owners are watching TV at least once a day while using other devices (i.e., smartphones, tablets) simultaneously.

Nielsen found that simultaneous tablet and TV use skews older while simultaneous smartphone and TV use skews younger. This "second screen" usage may contribute to the diminishing effectiveness of TV advertising, which has been declining since that advent of the DVR.

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It turns out that mobile video advertising is more effective than TV. A Q2 study from Nielsen and AdColony "measured the brand and ad effectiveness of the exact same 15-second [CPG] video spot in live campaigns across TV, online and mobile." What the research found was that the same ad delivered better results in a mobile context than online or on TV. 

Relatively speaking mobile video ads are dirt cheap by comparison to TV. Below are the study results comparing performance of the same video unit in the three different contexts: 

Mobile video ads:

  • 79% General Recall
  • 58% Brand Recall
  • 45% Message Recall

TV ads: 

  • 49% General Recall
  • 10% Brand Recall
  • 6% Message Recall

Online video ads: 

  • 29% General Recall
  • 12% Brand Recall
  • 8% Message Recall

In the study, the mobile ad dramatically outperformed the other screens across these traditional brand metrics. Some of this is undoubtedly the result of novelty but it's also the way in which mobile commands user attention in ways that TV and the PC internet have lost the power to do.