Quite a bit of research has been done to determine the relationship between television viewing and time spent online. When, for example, an advertiser puts their web address on their television commercial, there is a noticeable spike in site traffic within minutes with the majority occurring within the first twenty-four hours.
The bigger question is what percentage of this traffic occurs within those first few minutes after the commercial has broadcast? Did the television viewer have time to get off the couch, walk to the computer, log in to their ISP (remember dial-up?), and key in the address? Or, were they already online and sitting in front of a computer when the commercial aired? Were they already dividing their attention between television and online?
This is the idea of convergence.
Advertising Age published an article called "Using Double Screen to Drive TV Viewership" that suggested that it there is a big increase in people watching television while online in Japan. Are we becoming a culture of media consumers with one screen watching television and another browsing online? Does television now compete with the Internet on a minute-by-minute basis? If the content does not compel my attention, then the online world is only a click away. Or, as Advertising Age suggests, can you use RSS prompts to drive television viewership?
In years past, media was easier to categorize. Radio was listened to in the car during morning and afternoon drive times. Television was viewed primarily in the home with a noticeable spike in the evening hours as people came home from work.
So, a savvy advertiser could buy commercial time in the television morning shows at 7am, the popular radio morning drive show in each local market, and television news and prime from 6p-11p. This would allow predictable and duplicated access to target consumers. You knew where they were and what media they were consuming at any given time. You could plan for your optimal target audience and strive to attain the right mix between media reach and frequency.
Now, media planning is considerably more complicated. The first challenge was media fragmentation as television followed the trail blazed by radio by expanding from three television channels to 300 in the blink of a decade. But, you still had the foundational rock of Thursday night prime, right? Time-shifting is making the concept of appointment television obsolete. You watch television whenever you want selecting whatever content appeals at that moment. In radio, iPods, Zunes, and satellite radio are further competing for radio audiences across all formats.
Even the terms are losing their concrete definitions. Watching television used to conjure up images of Mom, Dad, and the two kids sitting in front of the big family console television. However, this Father Knows Best image is all but shattered. Now, there are more televisions in the average home than their are people and most viewing is done alone. With podcasting, mobile content, sling-casting, and other new technologies, viewing television content can be accomplished in an ever-expanding number of ways.
So, what is an advertiser to do? How does an advertiser ever know what sold his products? How can you evaluate the efficiency of different media in such a fast-changing media marketplace? How does radio, print, television, cable, outdoor, online, paid searchwords, and the rest of the vast media mix work together to sell the product and build the brand?
The reality is that we will never know and we never have known. But, more than ever, media professionals have to be smarter, more intellectually nimble, savvier, more creative, and they have to work a lot harder as advocates for their clients.