Make the video fit the venue.

This week: tailoring TV spots to the audience and the way they watch.

Today advertising on TV is much more than a spot that reaches Mom, Dad, their 2¼ children and Spot, the lovable mutt, who are all gathered together on the couch mesmerized by the screen.

There may still be Ozzie-and-Harriet families glued to the tube, of course. But TV is now watched a lot of different ways. Sometimes the audience is paying close attention, other times they're looking at the screen peripherally while they're engaged in other media. Occasionally they don't even glance at the screen, but listen while they're engaged in other activities.

TV video runs real time, delayed and on-demand. It's watched fast-forward, frame-by-frame and normal speed. Broadcast and cable may put content or commercials full screen, in a window, split screen, side-by-side and in crawls across the bottom of the screen. Duration can be anything from a two-second "Cwickie" on CW to a seemingly interminable infomercial.

Different audiences watch TV differently. Folks sixty-five and older watch a lot of TV, and they watch in real time. Under-twenties are notably absent in broadcast audiences. Overall viewing is pretty steady at about 8¼ hours per household, But online television (like Hulu) is finding a strong niche with 50-somethings.

With all the ways there are to watch and all the audiences who are watching, the way marketers and their agencies develop and produce TV spots has changed. They can no longer fly out to the coast, shoot and post a feature-quality 30-second commercial, chow down on braised Sonoma lamb at Spago or blue crab rolls at SugarFish, then fly back and consider the job done. One size definitely doesn't fit all any more.

There are some very significant differences in target audience – and even day part – viewing habits. And, to be effective, commercials must take those differences into account.

One example: although we've never seen data, we suspect that the "Today," "Good Morning America" and "The Early Show" are essentially radio programs for a sizeable part of their audiences. A lot of people listen to one of the broadcast TV network morning shows while they're tending to hygiene, dressing for work, pulling together breakfast and getting kids ready for school.

And inattention isn't just for breakfast anymore. Folks aren't just multitasking while they watch – or listen to – TV, they're multimedia-tasking. According to a 2004 Forrester Research study, the most recent time respondents watched TV, most of them were also doing something else:

· 9% of the audience was also listening to radio

· 38% were reading a newspaper

· 17% were online.

This is the latest complete data we have, but there's evidence that the distraction level has gone up considerably in the intervening four years. A 2008 study by Grunwald Associates found that simultaneous media consumption rose 34% in just the last year.