ADWEEK did a survey that asked just that. Although the answers were not surprising, they do make advertisers wonder how this multi-tasking affects the effectiveness of our television commercial schedules. The respondents’ answers certainly re-enforces the belief that television commercials must be engaging and entertaining in order to keep the audience tuned-in to the messages.

Television is still the largest audience that advertisers can reach with a single exposure and can have a tremendous impact in reaching a mass audience in a short time frame so it is still a significant component of an advertising plan. However, only 14% of American watch television while doing nothing else. Therefore, the other 86% of viewers are doing something else while also watching television.

Advertisers must understand that they are always in competition for consumers’ attention. No longer do we just have to worry about being by-passed by TiVo or DVRs, but now consumers can just tune-out commercials while they can engage in their other “entertainment” tasks:

56% of American surf the web

44% read a book, magazine or newspaper

40% use a social network site

37% send text messages

29% shop online

18% surf web on mobile phone

7% read a book on an e-reader

7% surf web on tablet computer

Television programs have embraced viewer multi-tasking. Some programs now have “live” Tweet sessions during the airing of shows. Viewers can engage with the program’s host or actors while watching. This is an incredible opportunity to build “community” and have viewers become part of the program in a way that was not possible before. Now even “water-cooler” talks have become old news.

So, back to the question: What do you do while watching TV?

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