Staying Relevant in the Digital Media Age

The average American spends nearly 8 hours per day with digital media. Brands have never had more opportunity — or more competition — for snaring consumers’ attention.

Before the pandemic, we were already a digital species. The average American in 2019 spent 6 hours, 49 minutes (6:49) per day with digital media (digital video, smartphones, connected TV, subscription OTT, digital audio), a full hour more than time spent with traditional media (TV, newspapers, magazines, radio). The pandemic widened the gulf. Traditional media habits stayed basically the same, while digital media usage jumped up more than an hour per day, to 7:50.

On any given day in 2020, the average American spent 13:38 engaging with media, most of which was digital. Often, this came in the form of multitasking: scrolling Instagram while “watching” TV, streaming audio while working, listening to a podcast while going on a run (which itself was tracked by a digital exercise app). Digital dominance is expected to increase through 2022 — so, in other words, Americans will continue to spend nearly all of their waking hours interacting with some form of media, ingesting between 6,000–10,000 ads per day.

In one way, this presents a major opportunity for advertisers. More eyeballs on screens means more chances to connect. But it also presents a major challenge. Our attention has never been more divided. We often have multiple media sources running simultaneously — especially Gen Zers, who prefer to watch TV, play video games, stream music, and scroll social media all at once.

How can brands make the most of this media frenzy? How can they cut through the noise and deliver meaningful, memorable content?

It starts with a thorough understanding of the fluctuating media landscape, and it extends to all forms of a brand’s output. To stay relevant, brands don’t merely need to churn out more matching luggage; they need to contextually develop more engaging, meaningful content, geared toward a fragmented, nonlinear purchase journey.

The COVID-19 Digital Surge

In 2020, it wasn’t just that we were watching more Netflix (though we were). In addition to relying on media for entertainment, we began to rely on media for, well, everything.

Instead of eating out, we ordered food on Doordash. Instead of meeting in conference rooms, we congregated on Zoom. Instead of meeting friends for drinks, we played video games and talked on Discord. Regardless of the activity, media was no longer an option; media was the option.

But as Americans get vaccinated and feel confident leaving their homes, won’t these habits change? Won’t stir-craziness give way to media abandonment?

Experts overwhelmingly believe that no, it won’t. With the exception of social media usage, which is expected to remain flat, digital media usage is actually expected to rise in 2021, and then keep rising through 2022. It seems that, to many, social distancing wasn’t such a bad thing after all.

World of Choice

That a digital media surge happened, and that it will likely continue to happen, should have a major impact on how brands endeavor to connect with their consumers.

In years past, people had a single-track approach to media. Watching TV actually meant watching shows and then, without the refuge of smartphones, watching commercials. With fewer variables vying for consumer attention, advertisers could rely on a linear purchase journey.

Not so in our digital age. As referenced above, consumers rarely devote 100% of their attention to anything. In moments of leisure, consumers cycle between TV shows, smartphone games, news articles, YouTube videos, dating apps, and more, like ricocheting off multiple bumpers in one of those archaic, non-digital pinball machines. This makes for a nonlinear purchase journey, evolving over a range of touchpoints scattered across many platforms.

Brands must adapt their advertising strategies to this world of teeming choice. They must stay on top of intergenerational media consumption habits, creating purposeful content, and ensuring that it appears in front of who it should, when it should, how it should. Perhaps above all, media placements must tell a meaningful story: informing, entertaining, educating, and inspiring.

Full-Service Creators

COVID recalibrated media, and your strategy should follow suit. Customers expect you to meet them on their terms, in a way that’s agile, flexible, and near-real-time. When it comes to negotiating this variegated landscape, LUDWIG+ offers the best of both worlds. As a full-service agency, we’re both creative strategists and media buyers — we get the right messages to the right people at the right time, when they’re most receptive.

For one client, we were able to boost website traffic more than 1,000% by activating paid media and A/B testing their creative messaging, thereby building brand awareness and aiding consideration. Through deep comprehension of media performance insights over time, we’re able to provide the same data-driven creative recommendations to any brand looking to meaningfully engage with their target audience.

Pandemic or not, we’re a digital breed, and our attention is spread thinly over endless options. To stay ahead of the digital curve, brands have a greater burden than ever to adapt.

Let’s get digital. Contact LUDWIG+ today.

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