Does second-screening enhance TV user experiences?

02 October 2015

While second-screening has been seen as an interesting marketing opportunity for quite some time, many of the techniques applied have been ham-fisted. If a user has to download an app to complete a TV ad call to action, this won’t result in much consumer action.

More tightly integrated programme-related second-screen opportunities are likely to be more successful, like the X Factor’s ‘fifth judge’ app, where second screeners can vote for each candidate. In app advertisers, like Dominos, have leveraged this well.

However, some past surveys have suggested that a high percentage of simultaneous device usage is spent looking at completely ‘unrelated content’ to what’s being aired on TV, but is that really the case? Not if you listen to what Google has to say.

So let’s imagine a family at home enjoying The X Factor, friends watching Friends, a group of teenagers entranced with Made in Chelsea, or boys together to see a big match.

At the break a Premier Inn ad runs and someone asks “who’s that singing ‘Wonderful Life’?” Seconds later a teenager provides the answer, “someone called Katie Melua”. This is one example of the deeper engagement that search can bring via second-screening.

Perhaps synchronised second-screen search is the new TV reality game we are all participating in? If your favourite search engine is taking a great deal of interest in this, then probably so should you.

If you listen to Google, second-screening is a fantastic opportunity to understand more about how consumers’ minds work, what they are interested in and how impulsive questions trigger greater engagement. It’s the ‘who’s that guy’ question that sofa search can satisfy and, according to Google, it’s creating big search spikes during programmes, ads or games.

Just as Google believes second-screen moments offer insights into how consumers think and interact, it seems many of us do want more detail and depth while watching TV and second-screen search is the most convenient way to satisfy real-time curiosity. Search is a much more immediate, natural behaviour than going to the app store and downloading an app.

According to Google research, second screeners are more than twice as likely to search for show-related info as those engaging with it on social media. This increase in dynamic search interest has already led them to offer real-time ads using second screen search insights as a starting point. Their trials suggest significant improvements in click-through rates can be achieved, compared to control ads, simply by pairing TV and digital in real-time.

But second screening isn’t just about extending television ad creatives to mobile; it can also be about product placement and - with particular relevance to travel brands - about location-specific interests: “Where is that hotel?”, “Where can I stay near that beach?”, “Can I book tickets to this event next year?”

All this requires advertisers to plan joined-up or, better still, seamlessly integrated marketing and digital strategies based around cohesive creative concepts, which we know, unfortunately is far too rarely the reality.

Second screening offers many new opportunities for brands in all sectors: to amplify and extend their investment in television media; to make it easy for consumers to reach out to find out more; and to extract direct responses to sponsorship, product placement and featured content. It can also add a new metric for measuring the effectiveness of TV media spend, but it requires a more nuanced approach to delivering richer, mobile-friendly supporting content on the web, rather than expecting an app to convert second-screen interest.

It would seem that, in today’s mobile era, watching TV is no longer just about watching.

Some facts about second-screening:

  • American adults watch over five hours of TV per day1
  • UK adults spend an average of 4 hours per day watching TV and 8 hours and 41 minutes on ‘media devices’2
  • Eighty-four percent of smartphone and tablet owners use their devices as a second screen while they watch TV: 12% read discussions about TV programmes on social media; 29% search for show-related information1
  • 91 percent of Millennials and 85 percent of Generation X online users have used a second screen while watching television3
  • The most tweeted television event during the 2014/2015 season was the Super Bowl XLIX with 25.1 million tweets1
  • Two thirds of smartphone owners say they turn to their phones to learn more about something they saw in a TV commercial4

Source 1: Nielsen 
Source 2: Ofcom 
Source 3: Statista 
Source 4: Google Customer Surveys, U.S., May 2015

Peter Matthews
Nucleus Founder & CEO
October 2015

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