TV still top ‘unifying device’ in Canadian homes

Believe or not, the TV is Canada’s top family re-unification device but PVRs (personal video recorders) are becoming big … real big.

And while Internet access is essential to a majority of Canadians, decades old technologies, such as the television and landline phones, are still an integral part of our lives.

These are key research findings from the Consumerology Report – January 2010, a survey on tech trends and consumer behaviour in Canada.

Highlights of the research, conducted by the Toronto-based Gandalf Group, a brand development consulting and research firm, were released this week during an Advertising Week 2010 presentation at the Royal Ontario Museum.

The Gandalf Group conducted the survey for advertising agency Bensimon Byrne, also of Toronto. Online interviews were done in September 2009, and a national quantitative survey of 1,500 Canadians in November 2009.

This research uncovered another interesting fact: that rumours about the CD’s demise are greatly exaggerated.

“For years, the media’s been proclaiming that CDs are dead and even Sam the Record Man is no longer there, but more than half of Canadians still listen to CDs — which like landlines still exist,” noted David Herle, principal, Gandalf Group.

Many of the trends documented in the report don’t square at all with popular assumptions.

The report tells marketers and advertisers how the online media influences consumer preferences, said Jack Bensimon, president and founder of Bensimon Byrne. “But like our past reports they tend to raise as many questions as they do answers.”

For instance, he said, despite the hype around smart phones, most Canadians do not own one, and more than 69 per cent aren’t into Twitter.

And notwithstanding the bad rap it gets, TV may be the one appliance that unifies the Canadian family.

The survey highlighted the fact that 60 per cent of respondents actively watch television. “It is, until now, the one truly universal device in the family room,” said Herle of the Gandalf Group.

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PVR tsunami

Bensimon said studying the reports numbers and their implications can help marketers, advertisers, and corporate decision makers plan campaigns effectively.

For instance, he said, a combination of online-driven multi-tasking and increased PVR usage presents a challenge to advertisers who rely on television.

“PVR ownership in Canada is much higher than previously thought and it is set to skyrocket significantly.”

Up until two years ago, PVR ownership in Canada was less than 10 per cent, the report noted.

However around 18 per cent of those polled this year said they would likely purchase a PVR in 2010. This could raise the number of PVR owners in Canada to 42 per cent by the end of the year.

From the standpoint of the TV advertiser, a PVR is a disruptive device because it turns consumer eyeballs away from commercial spots, by enabling users skip through ads when recording a program.

But advertisers aren’t the only ones hit.

Program creators should also take a closer look at the PVR’s impact on their material, said Bensimon. “While 80 per cent of PVR users skip ads, 85 per cent hit the fast-forward button to avoid watching boring scenes.”

Busted myths

Here are some of the Consumerology Report findings that blow away some tenaciously held notions:

Myth 1 – The iPod rules

Actually 42 per cent of Canadians think the CD player is essential to their lifestyle, compared to only 25 per cent who hold the same view about the iPod and other mp3 players.

But CD lovers tend to be an aging bunch.

Around 46 per cent of those aged 35 to 54 and 49 per cent of those aged 55 and above are CD spinners. But CDs are also popular with a good chunk of respondents — 30 per cent — aged 18 to 34. But 42 per cent of Canadians in that age group prefer mp3 players.

However 22 per cent of consumers aged 35 to 54 and 13 per cent of those aged 55 and above are rockin’ to the beat of mp3s.

Myth 2 – Landlines have flatlined

Not really.

Cell phones are very essential to Canadians across all age groups (64 per cent). However, landlines are still the preferred option for a whopping 68 per cent, and not just for those who remember the rotary phone.

While 59 per cent of consumers aged 18 to 34 view cell phones as very essential, 51 per cent in that group feel the same about landlines.

Interestingly only 15 per cent of those polled said smart phones were “very essential” to their lives.

Myth 3 – We’re all online

Not really. About half of us are.

Around 42 per cent of Canadians spend at least two hours online per day. Checking the news online (two-thirds of the online population) is a favourite activity, as well as interacting with friends — 51 per cent of Canadians are on Facebook.

Still a big chunk of the population say they have no time for the following: reading online news (35 per cent); Facebook (49 per cent); print newspapers (49 per cent); instant messages on computers, cell phones and smart phones (57 per cent); and spending time online on a smart phone (81 per cent)

Myth 4 – We love to Tweet

We’re definitely not a chirpy bunch.

Nearly 90 per cent of Canadians don’t tweet at all. But under the age of 30, Twitter seems to have some critical mass (30 per cent) and even greater popularity among the 18 to 24 age group (44 per cent).

Tweeting might not be a good idea for businesses as well. Fifty-seven per cent said they “would never sign up to follow a Twitter feed from a company).

Myth 5 – You should dive into Web 2.0

Perhaps – but not at the deep end.

Consider this: about 72 per cent of study respondents strongly agree that companies use social media for self promotion rather than genuine engagement.

Only one in 10 Canadians strongly enjoy connecting with companies via social networks, and one in 10 feel strongly that social networks are a good place to research a firm’s reputation or products.

However, 55 per cent think online social networks are an appropriate place for companies or brands to promote themselves. Younger people also display an enthusiasm about advertising via social media. Half of those under 35 say social nets are a good place to do research on a company’s reputation and products.

Myth 6 – We’re scared of online banking

A majority of Canadians – 74 per cent – bank online via their laptops or desktops, 69 per cent shop online and 30 per cent manage their investments online.

For now, older technologies appear to be holding on, according to Herle of the Gandalf Group. “New technologies are not crowding out more traditional devices.”

This situation is unlikely to last for very long. “The youngest cohort (consumers under 35) is very aggressively adopting the latest tech changes,” Herle noted.

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