Magazine article Variety

Be Very Afraid: Blurb Offers Glimpse of Next-Gen Viewing

Magazine article Variety

Be Very Afraid: Blurb Offers Glimpse of Next-Gen Viewing

Article excerpt

Watching TV while multi-tasking just means you're really not paying attention

The long-projected demise of TV and the advertising that supports it is something that ought to take years. AT&T demolished it all in 30 seconds.

The tech concern once known as Ma Bell has made hay off a hilarious ad in which a group of wide-eyed moppets sit around a table while asked: "What's better - doing two things at once, or just one?" Performing tasks simultaneously is "two times as awesome," one replies. Another cherub proceeds to display his prowess at shaking his head vigorously while waving his hand at the same time.

"I'm getting dizzy," he warns. And so should everyone else.

For anyone involved in the business of launching television programs or beaming ad messages at the people who watch them, AT&T's recent effort ought to be considered the Scariest Commercial in the World. How can anyone hope to capture the imagination of the American public going forward if its youngest members are intent on doing multiple and divergent activities in the same nanosecond?

Multitasking has long been a threat to both Madison Avenue and Hollywood. Before mobile tablets and phones and the advent of second-screen activity, couch potatoes had the lure of a snack or the call of the bathroom. The newtech lures are more pernicious, because they ask viewers to stay in front of the screen while tweeting, posting, liking or just toggling their brains from one pastime to the next and back again. A 2012 study conducted by Innerscope Research, a Boston concern that measures physical response to media, found consumers in their 20s switching media venues about 27 times per nonworking hour - the equivalent of more than 13 times during a standard half-hour sitcom.

We see the result of such behavior in the AT&T spot: Consumers who can do many things at once, but none of them well. (The kid oscillating his head could be in danger of coming down with shaken-brain syndrome, and I can only hope his gray matter survived the shoot.)

The ad becomes more frightening when you learn the kids' utterances are unscripted. The company didn't want the children talking about the devices shown in the commercials, just gut responses, said Daryl Evans, AT&T's veep of consumer advertising and marketing communications. …

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