LONDON: UK consumers have been found to switch between devices up to 21 times a hour, new research has revealed.

The findings emerged from the latest phase of a year-long research project by communications agency OMD into the future of the British consumer society. For the Future of Britain, 200 participants were asked to report which devices they used during one hour of an evening as one of 50 tasks set over ten days. Other areas of research included people's aspirations, their view of brands, their relationship with technology and their shopping habits.

Even though the great majority of respondents (95%) had a television on for the relevant period, on average they still managed to use various devices, including mobile phones, tablets and laptops, 21 times over the hour.

"Not only were they multitasking, but we were surprised at the sheer number of times that they were flip-flopping from one device to another," Chris Worrell, an insight director at OMD, told Media Week.

The research suggested that mobile devices had become "the 21st century equivalent of the kettle". Where people had once made a cup of tea or coffee during television ad breaks, they now turned to their smartphone or tablet.

People were "always one reach away from distraction" at home, said Worrell and he suggested that advertisers should consider shorter ad formats than the traditional 30-second film.

In this he was echoing a call first made by British adland veteran Trevor Beattie during an event at Ad Week Europe 2013 where he announced the death of the 30-second TV commercial. He declared that five seconds was the new unit in TV advertising, saying that an "epic of storytelling" was possible in that time.

Worrell said that brands needed to experiment with new formats that fitted with the new consumption patterns that were emerging. He explained, for example, that skippable ads on sites such as YouTube had primed people to be able to move on after the first five seconds.

"That's why we're seeing such growth in sponsorship on television," he added. "It's a new format that can engage with people in that kind of time period."

Data sourced from Media Week; additional content by Warc staff