How Consumer Multi-Tasking Behavior Affects Your Local Media Campaign

Local media strategy

The best way to reach multi-tasking consumers is through a multi-layered local media approach.

Consumers no longer just sit and watch television or play video games. They are also multi-tasking simultaneously with laptops, mobile phones, tablets and gaming consoles. They are looking for information, communicating with others and enjoying alternative entertainment all at the same time.

This behavior creates a unique challenge for local media advertisers who are trying to reach and engage these consumers with their product or message.

According to the new study “Cross-Screen Engagement” from Microsoft Advertising, “seven out of ten consumers use a second device, in some capacity, while watching television.”  While all of these participants owned a mix of devices, this study uncovered new insights around multi-screen behavior.

This research study took a two-phased approach that combined qualitative research of consumers aged 18-54, in 5 major cities, with quantitative research of consumers in the US, UK, Brazil, Australia and Canada.

According to the study, there are four common “pathways” of multi-screen behavior and corresponding “needs” that drive each one.

Understanding these motivations can help marketers gain the competitive advantage, by understanding how to reach these multi-taskers.

Paths to Engagement
Content Grazing

When consumers use two or more screens to access separate or unrelated content. This is the most common of the 4 paths. These people are exhibiting “distraction” behavior, and the challenge for marketers is to try and engage these people, while at the same time inserting their message into this moment of distraction. This requires a quick snippet of content to overcome short-attention spans.

Investigative Spider-Webbing

When consumers view related content on two or more devices at the same time. This curiosity-led engagement is where consumers seek information that complements the primary screen experience. The opportunity for marketers is to distribute content along exploratory threads, to encourage deeper exploration and satisfy the need to search and find more.

Social Spider-Webbing

This engagement is focused on sharing and connecting. The content on the primary screen provides the spark that provokes consumers to connect to like-minded communities and add to the conversation. The marketing challenge for this group is to target consumers where they are likely to interact within communities.


Intent based behavior where consumers are out to achieve a goal. They start the activity on one screen and continue it on another. “Efficiency” is the dominant reason why consumers take quantum pathways. Marketers to this group should seek out ways to seed ideas on one screen for further exploration on another.

Marketing Implications

In order for marketers to reach people who are engaging in multi-screen behavior, it takes a multi-layered media approach that will touch people as they move from device to device.

The study identified 5 patterns of behavior that are unique to each device and the best way to adjust messaging to engage people, while they are on these devices.

TV: The Everyman

TV delivers passive entertainment and is best positioned to provide emotional brand experiences. Advertising needs to tell emotional stories, keep messages accessible and build the brand.

Gaming Console: The Jester

Messaging on gaming consoles needs to be interactive, appeal to the consumers’ sense of fun, and provide a sense of competition and reward achievement.

Laptop: The Sage

The laptop and desktop experience informs, empowers and teaches. Advertisers need to provide deeper information, facilitate analysis and help consumers “close the deal.”

Tablet: The Explorer

Tablets have the potential to be the go-to device at home and offer more engaging experiences. Marketers should take consumers to new places and appeal to their sense of curiosity, tell stories using visual rich media and video but allow consumers to control the experience.

Mobile phone: The Lover

As the most personal device, the mobile phone evokes intimacy, commitment and trust. Marketers should make sure they are adding value and not interrupting, while giving ideas and facilitating personal connection.

With consumers becoming increasingly reliant on laptops, mobile phones, tablets and gaming consoles for inspiration, information, communication and entertainment, advertisers need to consider a multi-layered approach to their local media campaigns, in order to reach consumers across multiple devices.

Click the following link for the complete study, Cross-Screen Engagement.

Linda Thomas

About Linda Thomas

Linda is the Director of Media Services at Sheehy+Associates, a regional advertising, marketing and media agency. With over 25 years in the industry, there isn¹t much she hasn¹t seen or done with regard to media planning and placement on a local, regional or national level.

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