Second screen

The way we use media in our everyday lives has undergone radical changes over the past few years. Nowadays, when searching for something online many users opt for their smartphones or tablets, and not the desktop. As its name suggests, the term second screen (also called multi-screen or social TV), refers to the presence of an additional screen users employ while watching television. In addition to searching for information on their tablets, smartphones, or laptops, many users also head to various social networks to discuss the programme with others during the broadcast.

This additional screen has the potential to be a blessing for marketers, who are now faced with both new challenges and new opportunities arising from this emerging method of media consumption. Second screen isn’t only supported by standard web applications; there are now also special apps, widgets, or online services available to viewers that are specially designed for parallel use. The idea behind this concept is to make TV programmes more interactive by interconnecting different marketing channels.

Always online: changing media use

The arrival of second screen coincides with new usage pattern developments, which have largely been brought on by the increased popularity of mobile devices. Whether you’re grocery shopping, commuting by rail or carpool, at the gym, or just lounging around on the coach: smartphones and tablets are almost always within arm’s reach. Some make the most of this convenience and escape the commercial break by logging online, while others search for facts about the programme they’re currently watching. ‘Don’t I know that actor from some other show?’, ‘Quick, what’s the answer to that tricky quiz show question?!’, ‘And who’ll be representing the US in men’s beach volleyball this year?’ When it comes to discussing media content, younger audiences tend to gravitate towards social networks, like Facebook and Twitter; often labelling these topics with hashtags. Comments aren’t just limited to Facebook fan pages and the social media accounts of TV shows and actors. Platforms designed specifically for fans are also highly frequented and TV series and films also often offer tailor-made apps.

Media in the living room: who rules the roost?

Second screen studies have confirmed that the television is no longer the centre of attention  in many  living rooms around the world. A report by consulting services company, Accenture, reveals that as of 2015, the attention of roughly 87% of consumers is occupied by more than one device at a time. Unsurprisingly, this trend is especially prevalent among younger audiences, with smartphones being the preferred device among this demographic worldwide. However north American millennials bucked this trend, with 59% of respondents reportedly opting for their laptops instead. With such strong figures coming out of these studies, there’s no doubt that both television executives as well as advertisers have their eyes on these developments.

Social TV: the app for TV programs

For some time now, TV stations have been offering custom downloadable apps to their viewers. These provide additional information on the regularly broadcasted programs, and often offer users with opportunities for interaction. An excellent example of a successful second screen app is ‘StorySych’ from AMC’s The Walking Dead. This programme is an outlet for viewers to exchange information, answer show-related trivia, take surveys, and watch exclusive material.

Of the major UK television broadcasters, ITV have been the ones to embrace second screen technology the most. A couple of years ago they launched their initiative ‘Ad sync’. This gave companies and brands the opportunity to take over the ITV app during ad breaks of the most popular shows; X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, etc. When an ad break began, smart phone users were encouraged to play along with the app-based game, which would engage them with certain products or services. Tresemmě and Rimmel were two of the companies who made use of this service, aiming at the predominantly younger, female viewership of shows like X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent. The idea behind this was that people would be engaging with the app anyway during the show and therefore when a brand or company took over the app for 5 mins of the ad break, they would continue to engage and play along.

These approaches showcase how traditional media outlets, like television, can be connected with today’s most innovative digital strategies.

Second screen marketing advertising opportunities

A growing number of companies from the online sector, especially online retailers, are airing more and more television ads. But aren’t these advertisements going to waste if viewers are switching to their mobile devices during the commercial break? Well this won’t be the case  if the potential customers are also reached on their second screens. The keyword here is TV-digital ad synchronisation. Simultaneously running ads on multiple devices allows companies to weave a seamless brand story. The groundwork for concept rests on the synchronisation of both advertising channels, which can be achieved with the help of various technologies. Most of the time, ACR (automatic content recognition) is used. ACR gathers and analyses television commercials as soon as they’re broadcasted. This real-time acquisition of TV ads is coupled with advertising and analytics platforms. Marketers can then activate digital ad campaigns that are in sync with television advertisements and for instance, television advertising can be synchronised with SEA campaigns.

The ideal outcome here is that the sales message is boosted through its presence on additional screens. This enables advertisers to ‘catch’ viewers who may have otherwise been lost after switching to an alternate device. Repetition furthermore increases the effect and memorability of the ad. And by establishing a bridge to the online advertising sector, the effects of televised messages can be measured. These effects can be tracked through the corresponding website’s KPIs (key performance indicators), and the customers’ behaviour in turn becomes more transparent. Further tests on the interplay between TV campaigns and online marketing measures can be run and then later optimised.

Second Screen: a new challenge for marketers

When used in alongside TV advertisements, online advertising adds an extra kick to a company’s message. Users that are already searching for information or have been prompted by a television commercial to search for products can be brought on board immediately. Second screen advertising keeps you closer to the customer and their needs

Of course, there’s always the risk that such measures end up backfiring. The constant barrage of advertisements that interrupt regular programming is already a major irritant for many viewers. And should this flood of ads also find its way into such users’ mobile internet searches, then it could be the case that this perceived overreach is met with frustration. Users may either consciously or subconsciously develop what’s known as banner blindness’ and no longer pay attention to ads. As an advertiser, this means having to find the right balance; a task that will no doubt prove to be quite the challenge for the budding online marketing sector.