Getting to Grips with the Second Screen

Marketing, November 30, 2011 | Go to article overview

Getting to Grips with the Second Screen


The television's role at the heart of the living room has been under threat for some time, so broadcasters and brands must embrace the concept of the second screen, writes Nicola Clark.

In the good old days the ad break in Coronation Street would trigger a surge of demand on the National Grid as viewers got up en masse to make a cup of tea. Today, the smartphone is replacing the tea break as the distraction of choice for Britain's couch potatoes.

However, the smartphone is also a constant distraction from consumers' wider TV viewing, not solely a quick diversion during the ad break. For younger consumers at least, their smartphone is an ever-present significant other, leaving brands with the conundrum of how to better navigate the second screen.

Using a laptop or another internet-enabled second screen in front of the TV is not new behaviour. However, the fact remains that few brands are capitalising on this trend. Industry experts say that brands should not assume that the TV is at the top of the living-room marketing pyramid When thinking about the second screen, the first thing for marketers to establish is which device that is.

David Wilding, head of planning at PHD Media, says that while the TV industry is hard at work talking up the power of the medium to prompt social-media conversations, there is an argument that it is precisely the TV, not the smartphone or iPad, that is the secondary screen and, therefore, no longer the main focus of consumers' attention.

'In a way, TV has always been the second screen,' explains Wilding. 'You can't assume 100% attention from consumers all of the time. Rather than everything being led by the TV, there has always been a wealth of other things competing for consumers' attention.'

Working in tandem

However, Lindsay Clay, managing director at commercial TV's marketing body, Thinkbox, disputes this. She says the notion that television is the secondary screen comes from a misunderstanding of how the two screens work in tandem.

'Consumers might say that a smartphone is their preferred device, but you cannot confuse content with devices,' she contends. Clay adds that television has always been a 'highly social medium' in that viewers always talk to other people in the room about what they are watching.

'Social media has brought a whole new level of engagement and enjoyment, but it is not a new trend. It is just a different platform,' she says.

Regardless of whether it is the primary or secondary screen, there is no denying, however, that mobile has a growing role as a direct sales channel. According to research released this month by IBM's Coremetrics Online Benchmark data, the proportion of all traffic to retailers' websites from mobile devices will rise to about 15% next month.

Last December, the level was 5.6%, but it has risen steadily, reaching 12% in October. Mobile sales reached a high of 11% of all online sales in October, up from 3.1% in the same month in 2010. The research also revealed that social media plays a key part in improving conversion rates, standing at 7.6% for consumers who are directed to a retail site via a social-media site.

Broadcasters have also begun to harness the role of mobile in driving excitement around their shows. ITV show The Only Way is Essex used QR codes on screen throughout episodes, offering viewers exclusive content. Elsewhere, the cast often tweet along during shows such as Jersey Shore, Made in Chelsea and Glee.

Phil Nunn, communications planning architect at advertising agency network Draftfcb, agrees that multi-screen consumption is a major opportunity and has already proved valuable in expanding the viewer's experience.

'The challenge is one for advertisers, rather than broadcasters,' he says. He explains that the shift in viewing habits means advertising messages have to be salient for longer, more engaging, and, ultimately, more exciting, to persuade a viewer to pause and play before continuing to their original content. …

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