The Mad Man Behind The Curtain - Mike Einstein

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Cover image for  article: The Mad Man Behind The Curtain - Mike Einstein

"Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." – The Wizard of Oz

I've finally been able to reconcile some conflicting data regarding second-screen usage and TV-viewing behavior:

According to a recent IPG Media Lab white paper, 63% of all TV ad impressions – with an average CPM of $28 – are ignored or avoided. Adjusted to compensate for the delivery of wasted impressions, the effective-impressions TV CPM suddenly climbs to $75.67! And based on prime time CPMs of $50, the effective-impressions CPM in prime jumps to $135.14!

Furthermore, according to a Q4 2011 Nielsen survey of connected device owners, a majority of tablet and smartphone owners in the United States and the United Kingdom said they frequently use their device while watching TV.

We all know that TV ratings rely on set-top box data, which presumably can tell us when commercials are playing through without interruption. However, given the IPG and Nielsen findings above, logic and common sense suggest that any set-top boxes registering time spent with commercials are tuned to channels that otherwise predisposed, second-screen viewers can't possibly be paying any attention to. To think otherwise is so 17 seconds ago.

Let's use the biggest market in the country to illustrate this point. I bet that if you look back at any big-reach American Idol episode and take look at the set-top box data from real-time viewing in the NY metro area during that time period; and then look at traffic to Facebook and Twitter from that same demo, what will emerge is a spike in activity at the exact times of the commercial breaks on Idol – much like the documented spike in toilet flushing during the breaks in the Super Bowl. Yet the set-top box data shows the commercials playing through without interruption. What it really reveals is legions of multi-taskers too busy liking and tweeting to bother with the TV remote.

So, based on the IPG data, and factoring in the percentage of real-time TV viewers simultaneously immersed in other digital pursuits per the Nielsen findings, we now have an effective universe for television advertising purposes of around 15% - 20% of the potential audience we started with (assuming those folks aren't in the bathroom, of course) – which effectively increases the average CPM on TV to about $150.

The double whammy for advertisers and content providers alike is that consumers pay even less attention to the ads they're avoiding online than they do to the ones they're too busy not seeing on TV.

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