What the Multitasking Myth Means for Media Buying

Basics Q&A: 'Very Small Minority' Can Focus on TV and Phone at Once

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Most people who think they're multi-tasking are fooling themselves, according to Cindy Stockwell, exec VP-media director at Hill Holliday, the full-service agency where she runs the media specialty. For our latest Basics Q&A with a media leader, she told us what that means for media buying, where the challenges lie for the media department inside a broader agency and what the near-future holds for the way we buy digital media.

Cindy Stockwell
Cindy Stockwell

Advertising Age: How does it work being a media department within a bigger agency as opposed to a standalone?

Cindy Stockwell: It works very similarly to a standalone agency in that we have all the disciplines they have, but instead of being in a separate building or city as the folks doing the creative, we are able to physically get together more often.

Ad Age : What's the tangible benefit of that interaction with the creative team?

Ms. Stockwell: When you try to bring forth something that 's a little more nontraditional, it's especially important. We work with Major League Baseball and we developed the MLB FanCave in 2011 out of that cross-discipline approach. The FanCave is a website and a physical space in lower Manhattan, and fans were picked through a social-media contest as the ultimate baseball fans to go there and watch every single baseball game. They have multiple screens and fans, baseball celebs and entertainment celebs will stop by . There are also interviews and photos and blogs on the accompanying web that fills the virtual space, so it's this nontraditional kind of mix.

Ad Age : How did it come about?

Ms. Stockwell: This is a sport that needs to attract younger viewers. Baseball has a lot that is challenging from the length of the games to the length of the season and people identify more with players than teams. But then you flip that on its side and there are a lot of interesting characters, and there are cliffhangers with every game, and we are turning that into an idea of modern entertainment with the FanCave. The visitors who go to the website where the FanCave is housed are significantly younger than people watching on TV. The average TV viewer is in their 40s; the Web site visitor in their 20s. [In 2012, the site delivered nearly 11 million video views, more than four times the 2011 count. Traffic via sharing more than doubled year over year.]

Ad Age : What are the challenges in being a media department inside a full-service agency?

Ms. Stockwell: We have to invest in things before we have the client need. Two years ago we looked at the industry and said, "The way people are going to start buying with auction and programmatic is going to be something that is part of the future." But we had to convince our management to invest in it so we could offer the discipline prior to having clients buy in.

We convinced the agency to build a trading desk, and then we started selling it to clients to get some learnings in. Within a year it had paid off, and now about 20% to 25% of our internet dollars go through programmatic buying. At a larger agency it can take more convincing, because at a full-service agency you are betting on a lot of things and you have to make the case in line with other people who are making cases.

Ad Age : Speaking of programmatic buying, will it become the norm?

Ms. Stockwell: If you are just going to buy standard IAB units across sites, there is no reason to buy direct anymore. Between programmatic buying and individual marketplaces you can put together with publishers, more than 50% of buying will be programmatic in a few years.

What won't be will be things like what we did with Dunkin' Donuts, where if you become a Dunkin' Donuts Facebook fan you can unlock some paid content for free from CBS Sports and NCAA Men's basketball that had been behind a paywall. You can't do that with programmatic.

Ad Age : What are some insights you've gathered about consumer behavior that you're keeping an eye on?

Ms. Stockwell: People have more and more devices and they are using them more simultaneously. People think they are multitasking, but a lot of studies have been done that show a very small minority of people can focus on more than one thing at once. So we're looking at if the technology existed on a scale basis where you could sync what was going on on TV with your devices, is there a benefit in terms of seeing an ad on TV and on mobile?

And [we've found] there is a huge benefit in terms of recall, preference, and intent to purchase among those who see an ad on TV and an ad on computer or device at the same time. Whereas, if someone sees a different ad on their laptop versus what is on TV there is a loss of recall.

Ad Age : What do you do with that insight?

Ms. Stockwell: Mostly this syncing is used around big event-type programming for now, and it's a little difficult to do with just a regular prime-time show, even with social TV. But the more you know your target audience and how to reach them the better, and the reality is we still need better technology to get us there across screens.

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