Econsultancy has just finished a new report, The Multi-Screen Marketer, written on behalf of the Interactive Advertising Bureau and based on a survey to over 1,800 consumers.

The goal was to find out how they use a second screen while watching television and to help us understand the impact of these behaviors on advertising and marketing.

There’s no shortage of research on the topic, so we focused on areas that believe to be the least examined (and most useful), including how different types of content correlate with multi-tasking, how the distraction of the second screen affects advertiser awareness and what consumers expect from their TV experience in the future.

There has been a great deal of attention and research directed at the multi-screen recently, and with good reason. 65% of the respondents with a tablet in our study said they were likely to be using a second device while watching television…and that number goes up for those 18-44 years old.

Even most people with only two screens (TV + computer) are more likely to be online while watching than not (52%).

The Multi-Screen Marketer explores some of the effects of these behaviors, and tries to lay out an approach for publishers and advertisers.

How does the distraction of the second screen affect attention? 

When someone has another device at the ready, their attention can shift from the screen the moment they lose interest. Whether it’s a commercial break or just a break in the action, they’re off and mentally running. Studies have already shown that commercial blocks invite the heaviest multi-screen behavior.

We wanted to measure how this could impact advertiser recall. Respondents were asked to identify their favorite television program, and then asked if they could identify specific advertisers associated with it. We expected that the less people fit the mold of the multi-tasker, the more they would recall, but that’s not what we found.

Overall, 46% of survey takers were able to identify between one and three advertisers. Surprisingly, four screened respondents (TV, computer, smartphone and tablet) were more likely (53%) than those with only two screens (42%). Again, younger tablet owners did even better…61% could recall at least one advertiser.

Of course, this doesn’t capture some very important pieces of information; we don’t know anything about messaging recall or sentiment. You can be sure that studies will fill in these gaps.

Does the type of content (TV program) correlate with multi-screen behaviors?

Television programs aren’t all the same, even if it feels that way when you’ve got a remote in your hand. Respondents were asked to identify their preferred program types (procedurals, sports, reality, etc.) and given three randomly chosen questions about their behaviors from a total of six possible questions (to avoid overload).

Three of the behaviors were “commercial” – related to online shopping, product searches, etc., while the others related to general online surfing and searching for media-related information.

Findings are broken down in detail within the report but one of the highlights was discovering that independent drama (Mad Men, Breaking Bad, etc.) is a hotbed for both commerce and non-commerce related second screen behaviors.

People are somewhat more likely to shop for products they’ve seen during the program (show + commercials) and to do things like connect on social networks, than during any other program type. At the other end of the spectrum are procedural dramas.

Where are we headed?

Connected TV is already here, but few people have bought them so far, and those that have often aren’t using them to their full potential.

We asked respondents to describe television of the future and the televisions of the future, and to gauge the impact of these expected changes. At the top of the list is the ability to watch anything, anywhere, anywhen. Not surprising and unlikely to be fulfilled any time soon, because of the basic business models of the primary players.

The second highest priority is for a television that listens and more importantly, does what we tell it. Voice recognition scored well, as people acknowledge that between multiple remotes, hundreds of channels and piles of accessories, it can be complicated to find or record the content we want.

Other top priorities center around the multi-screen experience. People expect to be able to watch programming on any device, and then move it simply from one device to another as they travel.

Naturally, we gravitate to the best available device, but often that is the most available device. Watching a film on a smartphone is sub-optimal, unless you’re on a subway, in which case it’s sublime.

Other Findings

The Multi-Screen Marketer looks at a number of other topics including how social is really a private activity, how multi-screeners use online information during the purchase process and how TV viewing is shared among devices.

Thanks to the sponsorship of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, the report is available to all Econsultancy members, bronze and higher.