REDWOOD CITY, CA: As more consumers engage in multi-screening activity, a new ethnographic study has confirmed that attention lost from TV ads can be regained by ads on digital platforms.

A research experiment conducted by Nielsen for YuMe, the video advertising platform, involved lab observations of 200 respondents in Las Vegas over a two month period, in which video consumers were instructed to engage with devices – TV, laptop, tablet, smartphone – as they would naturally at home for 20 uninterrupted minutes.

The resulting 50 hours of video footage was gathered with second-by-second coding of attentiveness for the four devices, generating nearly 2m data points to analyse regarding behaviours and interactions across devices.

TV was the initial medium of choice for multi-taskers, but their attention could shift very quickly as some started to search out content on other devices within minutes.

But TV provided a constant background, even if the participants were not interested in the specific program that was airing at the time and choosing to engage with content on other devices.

During the study, an ad campaign served to the same number of multi-tasking consumers on each device was demonstrated as being seen by more than twice as many viewers on laptops and more than three times as many on tablets or smartphones as on TV.

Overall, of all the ads shown, just 30% of ads on television were seen, compared to 71% of those on laptops and 93% of those on tablets.

"No one is debating that consumers are multi-tasking," said Paul Neto, director of research at YuMe.

"Despite distraction levels among consumers, it will be important for brand advertisers to continue running campaigns cross-screen, as viewers continue to show they are also attentive on laptops, tablets, and/or smartphones while 'watching' TV."

That said, when participants found content they were interested in watching on television, they were much more likely to maintain their focus on the TV set.

On digital devices, pre-roll was generally found to be more effective than mid-roll at ensuring multi-tasking viewers were attentive to advertising.

Data sourced from Business Wire; additional content by Warc staff