Earlier this week, I attended a Cisco briefing that covered, among other things, the dramatic increases predicted in Internet traffic over the next few years. Actually, dramatic doesn’t really do justice to these numbers, particularly for those of us in the advertising game, or anyone in marketing for that matter.

Try these figures on for size:

Globally, the number of networked devices will nearly double from 10 billion in 2011 to 19 billion in 2016. (Source Cisco VNI)

Video content is going to go ballistic with 3 trillion minutes (6 million years) of video traffic crossing the Internet each and every month in 2016. That works out to 1.2 million minutes of video streamed or downloaded every second. (Source Cisco VNI)

The connected lifestyle is going to become all-pervasive. According to a Q4 2011 Nielsen survey of connected device owners in the U.S., U.K., Germany, using a tablet or smartphone while watching TV is more common than not. In the U.S., 88 percent of tablet owners and 86 percent of smartphone owners said they used their device while watching TV at least once during a 30-day period. For 45 percent of tablet using Americans, using their device while watching TV was a daily event, with 26 percent indicating that they used TVs and tablets simultaneously a number of times a day. U.S. smartphone owners showed similar patterns of dual usage of TV with their phones, with 41 percent saying their use their phone at least once a day while tuned in. (Nielsen Wire http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/online_mobile/double-vision-global-trends-in-tablet-and-smartphone-use-while-watching-tv/)

As far as Internet use at home goes, globally, the average Internet user will generate a massive 32.3 gigabytes of Internet traffic per month in 2016, up 181% from 11.5 gigabytes per month in 2011.

While these figures and predictions may not be one hundred percent reliable, the indicated trends are undeniable. More and more people will be using alternative devices to watch their content of choice, when and where it suits them, even while your expensive TVC is running in prime time. The question is how are you going to deal with this?

The Neilsen blog linked above says: “The most frequent tablet or smartphone activity across all countries while also watching TV was checking email — either during a commercial break or during the show. Yet device owners also seem to engage with content related to the TV as well, either by looking up information related to the show or looking for deals and general information on products advertised on TV.”

So what we have here is a double-edged sword. On one hand, these viewers have a terrific opportunity to ignore the advertising in front of them (that’s over and above the fast forward button on their PVR or the good old channel change still employed by many viewers). On the other hand, they’ve got a perpetually connected device in their hands, which can give them virtually instantaneous access to additional relevant content. You can’t just assume that they’ll choose the second option over the first, that’s going to depend on a great number of factors but I think it’s safe to say that lousy or generic ads aren’t likely to fire viewers up enough to head off to the Internet to seek more information, even if there are Apps on their device that will take them there with almost no effort. It’s time to lift the game because the distraction factor is about to go crazy.

The online destinations people reach when searching for information during TV shows or commercials will have to be slick and user-friendly, because it’s only a matter of minutes or even seconds before the ad break ends or something exciting happens on-screen, at which point the viewer’s fleeting interest will likely disappear.

Let’s not forget about the 1.2 million minutes of streamed or downloaded video that will be happening every second of every day in only four short years. How do you plan on leveraging this content and reaching the people who’re watching it? I’ll cover this question in the second part of this blog post…