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Microsoft: 68 percent of digerati use multiple devices at once

A survey, conducted for Microsoft's advertising group, encourages advertisers to better tailor their marketing to the devices consumers are using.

An interactive ad from Toyota on an Xbox 360 with Kinect that uses gestures to let consumers answer questions.
Screenshot by Jay Greene/CNET

A new survey, paid for by Microsoft Advertising, found that 68 percent of computer users in five countries multitask on multiple devices at the same time.

The survey, conducted in Chicago, London, Toronto, Sydney, and Sao Paulo, looked at the different ways folks use multiple devices at the same time. The most common use of multiple devices is something researchers Microsoft dubbed "content grazing." Those folks, the 68 percent of computer users, will check email on their smartphone while watching television, for example.

The survey, conducted by research firms Flamingo Research and Ipsos OTX, found that 57 percent of users engage in what Microsoft calls "investigative spider-webbing." They learn about something on one device, then seek out more information on another, such as checking out an actor's background on a tablet while watching his sitcom.

Some 39 percent of computer users do "social spider-webbing," that is, sharing details of what they've done or found on one screen, such as a completing a level in a video game, over a social network on another screen. And Microsoft said that 46 percent are "quantum" users, that is, they jump from one screen to the next to complete tasks such as reading a restaurant review on a smartphone before making a reservation on a laptop.

Beyond the marketing-speak naming conventions, the survey is designed to offer some insight into the best way for advertisers to reach consumers. Advertising is less likely to work when marketers don't understand how consumers are using their various devices.

"Consumers have a lower tolerance for advertising on mobile phones, where the device demands more intimate and personal content," the report reads. "Similarly, consumers tend to be sensitive to interruptive advertising on gaming consoles."

To best reach consumers, the report encourages advertisers to approach the variety of screens differently. Ads on computers, for example, should provide "deeper information" including reviews and ratings. Video game ads should be interactive and fun.

"While marketers once generated content to fit manufactured and static advertising placements, consumers now control their own flow of content -- from day to night, and from screens large and small," Natasha Hritzuk, senior global director of Research & Insights at Microsoft Advertising, wrote in a blog post. "So it's even more imperative that marketers understand consumer motivations in order to meet them in their moment."