Technology has become the backbone of daily functions for today's consumer.  Life today looks very different than it did even five years ago.  According to a Gallop poll, 41% of smartphone users check their phones several times an hour and 81% keep their phone nearby during waking hours.  63% keep their smartphone nearby even when sleeping.  EMarketer reports that by the end of 2016, it is expected that fewer than 100 million households will be cable or satellite subscribers, opting instead for streaming services and online content.  On average kids 8-18 years old spend 7 hours and 11 minutes a day looking at a screen, according to the CCFC.  For adults, that time is even greater.  Although consumers live day in and day out with more screens to view than ever, this presents a real challenge to marketers trying to reach their target audience. 

Many college students no longer have televisions in their dorm rooms.  They are bypassing television ownership in their cramped dorm rooms to save space and instead, consume media on their own terms. Today's college students typically watch shows or other content from their laptop or tablet as they multitask doing other things like writing papers on their computer. Even the adults that still watch TV shows live, usually do so as they shop online on their tablet or post to social media simultaneously. Things have changed.

Today's average consumer has four screens: a computer screen, a tablet, a smartphone, and a television.  With so many options, is it any wonder that most are watching content on a time-shifted basis?  Today's consumers want more control over how and when they consume media, choosing to watch programs around the time-starved schedules we call "life" now.  Ad-skipping?  Yes please.  Brands already know reaching consumers requires more and more craftiness, showing up when a consumer least expects it, hoping they may be receptive to messaging. 

According to some recent studies, most consumers 18-34 spend more time on their smartphone or computer than watching TV.  Following closely behind this trend are those 35-54 years old, who are also quickly reducing time spent consuming content on their TV screen.  The time spent on YouTube has doubled in the last two years alone, providing another solid option for consumers to avoid TV watching.  The world's top digital media properties (think Facebook, etc.) reach larger audiences than the four big broadcast networks.  Then there is the disappearance of the "water cooler effect". It used to be that the day after a show aired, water cooler talk at the office would be about the show, since everyone just watched it the evening before.  Since consumers now watch time-shifted content or have "cut the cord" completely on cable, the once well-known "water cooler effect" is now virtually gone. 

With more options and more control, ratings have fragmented, changing the landscape.  Further complicating things are campaigns like "Screen Free Week" encouraging consumers to skip screen time for a week and embrace the unplugged joys of life.  While campaigns like Screen Free Week promote positive lifestyle behaviors and more balance with technology in our lives, it should also be a wake up call to marketing and advertising professionals. The consumer life is different than it has ever been and it is not likely to revert back to how it was.  After all, screens add so much convenience! Whether consumers opt to participate in Screen Free Week or not, brands cannot rely on spot TV or digital alone. A solid media mix with strong strategy and planning behind it are more critical now for brands that want to grow their market share.  Source One can help! Whether you are already working with an agency or need to establish a working relationship with one, Source One has the expertise to help.
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