US digital lifestyle consumer
...with analysis & insight...
The Internet has become significantly more important to consumers in the United States than TV.
For this chart I have extracted the US data from a Synovate Global questionnaire based study that
used 8,600 respondents. Synovate are the market research arm of the Aegis Group and employ
over 6,400 staff across 62 countries. For those who do not know; Aegis is one of the world’s
biggest media buying groups that include companies like Carat.
Basing any marketing decisions on self-reported behavioural data such as this would be fool hardy
without correlating this with actual behaviour. Also you would need to fully understand the factors
driving the behaviour being studied before it would be really useful, and this would take qualitative
research. Unfortunately, so many people involved in making marketing and advertising decisions,
particularly in the US, base all their decisions solely on quantitative data. A large of amount of that
quantitative data is based on questionnaires, like this data from Synovate. In fact at a recent
American Marketing Association (AMA) conference it was estimated that only 2% of US spending on
market research was spent on qualitative research. Bearing this in mind I’ve created this chart
using the data that Synovate released for the US part of the study. As you will see, when other data
is added into the mix the picture of the consumer behaviour starts to become clearer, the insight
greater and thus more useful and actionable. Questionnaire data like this Synovate is just a
starting point and raises as many questions as it answers.
Note that 58% percent of the US study said that they couldn’t live without the Internet – this is
significantly higher than the 34% who couldn’t live without TV. It’s fascinating how quickly the
Internet has come to play such an important part in people’s lives. Also noteworthy is the fact that
35% judged their mobile phone as the device they couldn’t live without.
In reality over the next few years US consumers because of convergence will never have to make
the kind of choice the questionnaire asked. In the UK the convergence of Mobile, Internet and TV
is moving faster the United States. UK 3G mobile Internet coverage is ahead at 93% of the
population compared with 88% in the US and recently the UK began the testing of 4G services.
Mobile data revenues also make up a larger proportion of mobile carrier revenues; UK 25% versus
the US 23% (all Ofcom December 2009 figures). The UK also has another reason to be optimistic
about convergence; the BBC Trust has just given the go-ahead to Project Canvas. This is a service
that combines Internet and TV into one seamless interactive “catch-up” experience. If no more
regulatory hurdles are place in the way of Project Canvas then it would be entirely possible for the
new style set-top boxes to be in consumers hands in time for next Xmas.
This leads me on to the subject of behavioural advertising, something that the commercial
companies involved in Project Canvas will rely on for revenue. What I’ve done for this section of
the chart is to reverse the dataset. Where Synovate implies that 32% would “like” behavioural
targeting I have charted the 68% majority who say they would not like it. As UK consumers
understand more about targeted advertising they will probably respond in a similar manner.
Google has already recognised the consumer backlash around targeting and privacy that is now
echoing through the US Senate. As a response Google’s targeted advertising has now been re-
packaged as “interest based advertising.” However targeted advertising gets labelled, 71% of US
consumers think there is already too much advertising on TV. This has probably been a factor in
the steady growth of subscription TV (cable in the US and satellite in the UK) as much as the wider
programme choice. It is quite possible that more research would confirm this hypothesis.
Consumers already have vastly more choice of TV content than they have time available to
consume it. The latest (December 2009) Ofcom figures report the UK average television
consumption is 3.75 hours per day. This is the fastest growth in Europe but still behind the US
figure of 4.6 hours per day spent TV viewing. Even using the comparatively limited choice of the
free to air UK service Freeview, the average UK TV viewer is still watching less than 4% of the
available content. For a satellite service like Sky that consumption figure of the percentage of
available content would be below 1%. With convergence services like the UK Project Canvas
available in the foreseeable future, suddenly the choice will become virtually limitless. I suspect in
this situation average UK TV viewing time will grow to closely match US TV viewing habits. When
you combine this with time spent using the Internet then UK consumers are bound to feel even
more “time poor” than they already feel. One thing you can bet on is that both in the UK & the US
after the Xmas meal has been eaten TV viewing and Internet activity will dramatically rise.