The Lone Watcher

Back in 1932, actress Greta Garbo uttered the instantly legendary phrase, “I vant to be alone.” * And that was alright vis everyone. Well, now the tides have turned and advertisers have their own spin on the quote; “I vant you to be alone!”

Brands expect to get attention for the commercials they produce and for which they purchase time. And, for the most part, the system works. But changes in technology are providing cause for concern. It turns out Ms. Garbo was an ideal viewer model when she was alone, but if she had company or was also using a second screen (though in 1932, she was probably just changing her clothes behind it) her attention was compromised.

The Council for Research Excellence, who it should be noted researched themselves and determined they were, in fact, excellent, has issued a new report. It turns out that if there is no second screen (those being mobile devices in use while watching television, especially to access supplementary content or applications) or another viewer in the room (examples include adult persons who won’t allow them to concentrate, a child who won’t allow them to concentrate or someone for whom one has romantic ambitions that won’t allow them to concentrate) 90% of viewers notice ads. However, turn on that Smartphone during the break to see what everyone else thinks of, say, what Cookie is wearing on Empire, and that viewer’s attention slips to 75%!

By using eye tracking the researchers were able to get their numbers even more focused for advertisers. Fixation time, which is the maintaining of the visual gaze on a single location, was 58% for solo viewers as commercials ran and dropped precipitously to 25% when a second screen or additional viewers were added.

But, or should we say, BUT, those statistics were directed at commercial breaks only. It can be assumed that viewers who are actually watching a TV program or film are… watching it. By extension that would indicate that brands seeking attention via branded integrations, can expect a higher level of fixation time than those hoping to convey their brand message through commercials.

Brands that retain product placement companies obviously vant (last one) viewers to notice their brands when they appear within TV shows, films and OTT programming. Well, they can rest easy in the knowledge that in a distracted world, they’re likely to actually exceed the attention they might receive in paid spots.

* It was actually, “I want to be left alone,” but that doesn’t work as well for this blog and nobody really knows that anyway.