Press release

Advertisers face far-reaching disruptions as distracted consumers’ attention to content weakens across media platforms—Bain & Company analysis

Advertisers face far-reaching disruptions as distracted consumers’ attention to content weakens across media platforms—Bain & Company analysis

  • June 18, 2024
  • min read

Press release

Advertisers face far-reaching disruptions as distracted consumers’ attention to content weakens across media platforms—Bain & Company analysis
  • Increase in multitasking by media users will force advertisers to rethink long-established campaign models and move measurement of engagement from reach to attention
  • Across media formats, an average of ~75% of media users multi-task, and over 60% of media users simultaneously consume multiple forms of media content. Traditional publishing offered hope from higher consumer focus

BOSTON & LONDONJune 18, 2024—Advertisers confront radical disruption of established advertising campaign models as engagement with advertising is hit by an accelerating and far-reaching trend for consumers to multi-task while using media across multiple platforms and devices, alongside continuing declines in both attention spans and overall consumer time spent on media, Bain & Company concludes in new research today.

Bain’s analysis, released as leading advertising industry players gather at the annual Cannes Lions festival in France, warns that advertising executives from leading companies face a large-scale challenge to rethink current promotion and campaign strategies as these overlapping trends in media consumption combine.

Bain & Company’s latest annual Media and Entertainment Review, Creativity Can’t Stand Still, based on the firm’s large scale Consumer Media Consumption Survey of almost 5,000 consumers, maps the major shifts taking place in how people of all ages use and consume media and advertising across a fragmented and diversified landscape of platforms and devices – made ever more complex by rapid increases in personalized and curated content offerings.

The intensifying trend for consumers to multi-task across platforms, diluting engagement with advertising content, is among the most striking developments impacting advertisers highlighted by Bain’s analysis, with big implications. Bain concludes that, along with other fast-developing trends, this will force the advertising industry and its corporate clients to redesign how advertising effectiveness is measured to focus on metrics that track attention paid – rather than the conventional measures of reach.

Social media users only fully engaged with content 10% of the time

Overall, across platforms and formats, Bain’s survey shows that roughly three-quarters of media users multi-task while consuming media, with over 60% of media users consuming multiple media formats simultaneously. Alongside, the overall total of time spent by consumers using media has fallen from around 13 hours a day in 2021 to around 12 hours now.

For social media, 75% of consumers also use other media simultaneously, and so are distracted by other formats from audio to video to television. Social media users self-report they are only focused entirely on a social platform they are using for just 10% of the time spent.

For consumers streaming video, 65% of consumers state that they use other media at the same time as viewing streamed content – notably scrolling on social media on a phone. Even for video games, often regarded as more commanding of user attention, the data shows that almost 70% of consumers are multi-tasking, with 65% of them doing so with other media.

“These changes in how people consume media have huge implications for advertisers because reach is no longer engagement,” Nicole Magoon, a partner in Bain & Company’s Media & Entertainment practice, said. “If people are paying less attention to their media, they’re also paying less attention to ads. That means lower engagement, lower sales, and CPM re-evaluation. But there is plenty of scope for media companies to lean into these trends, to rethink and to adapt to the changing landscape. If you know someone is scrolling Instagram while streaming your show, you can – for example – have a live tie-in to drive engagement with characters and with shoppable content in the feed. The imperative is to reimagine current models that are threatened by the trends we’re seeing.”

Jeff Katzin, a partner in Bain & Company’s Media & Entertainment practice commented: “This is a whole new set of challenges for advertising and marketing leaders – potentially a universe of confusion. It’s going to force many advertisers to rethink long-established ways they go to market, including how to monetize attention in addition to reach. Creative organizations are also going to have to innovate in creative breakthrough ways that grab attention and engagement across platforms. They may not view that as a ‘new’ imperative, but innovative uses of creative and technology will be critical.”

Higher attention offers a beacon of light for publishers

In what Bain concludes is a more optimistic finding for traditional publishers and their leaders, it notes that readers of publications are most attentive to the content being consumed. Just over 45% of readers say they multitask when consuming print and digital text publications, over 40% of them with other media. The majority are multitasking with audio while reading.

“People consuming text-based content pay much more attention to it, which offers publishing a bright spot amidst all the upheavals the sector has been facing, if publishers can leverage that fact in this new age of fragmented attention,” Magoon added. “Our data also shows people are less willing to consume AI-generated content in books, news and magazines, with only about 35% of readers saying they’re okay with AI material – so that also offers an opportunity for publishers and writers to use human creativity to differentiate in a sector that has been heavily pressured by both costs and technological changes.”

Among other key findings, Bain’s report highlights the need for media companies to adapt and innovate amid seismic changes affecting the sector:

  • Great content at a premium: while demand for quality content and IP remains, consumers’ intensified appetite and demand for content means that they expect constant new output across their interests. Increasingly this applies across converged platforms that blend social worlds and entertainment;
  • Pressure on costs: nimble players increasingly need to leverage technology to lower their cost base;
  • Audience engagement harder but critical: fragmentation, more niche platforms and content for more segmented audiences, and more diverse platforms with greater personalization have increased challenges;
  • Monetization more complex: simple pricing structures and ready reach to mass audiences on fewer channels in past decades has given way to curated offerings, with more targeted digital advertisings and a need to track attention, not reach, to measure engagement and impact.


Media contacts

To request a copy of the media pack on the findings, arrange an interview, or for any questions, please contact:

Gary Duncan (London) — Email:

Katie Ware (New York) — Email:

Ann Lee (Singapore) — Email:

About Bain & Company

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