How Much Should Consumer Time Factor Into Media Spending?

June 16, 2016

EconsultancyDatalicious-Time-Spent-Media-Spending-Variable-June2016Consumers’ media consumption habits have shifted in recent years, most notably towards digital channels, and mobile in particular. One oft-cited slide included in Mary Meeker’s annual State of the Internet presentations compares time spent with media channels against spending on those channels. While this slide is often used as an argument for increased spending on mobile, is it a good comparison to make?

One of the issues with the comparison is that it completely ignores advertising effectiveness, suggesting that a mobile ad is equal to a TV ad, which is in turn equal to a radio ad, and so on. Perhaps the imbalances in consumption exist because some advertising formats are simply more effective than others? For example, one of the main channels that benefits from these “imbalances” is print – but MarketingCharts’ own research finds that consumers notice ads in print at a far higher rate than they do in some other channels. (Other reasons for spending “imbalances” could include internal politics and legacy behavior, among others.)

A new report [download page] from Econsultancy in association with Datalicious – the Media Budgets Index – takes the concept of media spend versus consumer time and applies it to various countries around the world. Interestingly, the results for the US suggest that offline media might actually be slightly underfunded, occupying 73% of total ad spend, but a slightly larger (76%) share of consumers’ time. In fact, TV, radio and print are all underfunded in this type of comparison (at least using the sourced data), with radio the most out of whack, capturing just 7% of ad spend while hogging 21% of consumers’ time.

Some of the more interesting findings from the report, though, relate to the use of time spent as a variable in making media spending decisions. Based on the responses of more than 500 global executives, the report suggests that organizations’ digital media spending allocations are primarily based on incremental changes from previous budgets depending on performance (54%), and are also dependent on campaign specific objectives (51%). Far fewer (31%) organizations use time spent by customer on the channel to allocate digital budgets.

It’s a similar – if not slightly different – case for offline media spend. Executives are much more apt to make their offline spend dependent on campaign specific objectives (54%) than on time spent by customer on the channel (25%), though incremental changes based on performance are not quite as popular as with digital media allocations.

Overall, when asked how time spent data is used in their organization:

  • A plurality (36% global; 47% in the US) say that time spent is one of numerous variables that inform future media spend;
  • Fewer (31%; 28% in the US) say that time spent is the key variable informing future spend; while
  • A sizable share (25%; 18% in the US) don’t use data around the time spent on media channels.

The remaining few (<10%) actively monitor the time spent on media channels and use that data to adjust spend mid-campaign.So it seems, then, that for the most part time spent is not a key variable used in media spending decisions.One of the issues could be that organizations aren't all able to even measure time spent on channels where media is purchased. Only one-third profess to having a good idea how much users spend on almost all of their channels. Roughly half are able to on some channels but struggle to do so across the board, while close to one-fifth are unable to measure time spent.

How Much Time DO Consumers Spend With Media?

A recent article from eMarketer was titled “Growth in Time Spent with Media Is Slowing.” That’s probably something to be thankful for, because there are only 24 hours in a day, and apparently US adults already manage to spend half of that time with media. (That’s not entirely true; read on.)

Indeed, eMarketer estimates that US adults will spend 12 hours and 5 minutes per day with various media channels this year. That might seem like a lot, but the calculation includes multitasking. For example, three hours spent in front of the TV and multitasking on the internet counts as 6 hours of media time in this calculation. And eMarketer estimates that there’s plenty of that multitasking going on.

So here’s how eMarketer estimates adults’ media time being broken up this year:

  • Digital media: 5 hours and 43 minutes per day, with mobile (3:06) taking precedence over desktop/laptop (2:11) and other connected devices (0:26);
  • TV: 4 hours and 5 minutes per day;
  • Radio: 1 hour and 27 minutes per day;
  • Print: 28 minutes per day, with newspapers (0:16) getting more time than magazines (0:12); and
  • Other channels picking up 22 minutes of media time per day.

Meanwhile, a separate new forecast from Zenith predicts that, globally, mobile will comprise 71% of internet time this year. The dominant force in media consumption, though? TV, with 38% of global media consumption this year, compared to the internet’s 31%.

About the Data: The Econsultancy and Datalicious study is based on a survey of 678 senior staff across a range of organizations and sectors. Respondents are evenly split between B2C, B2B and hybrid organizations, with the financial services and insurance sector (19%) most heavily represented.

Data for the US is based on 265 respondents.


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