Navigating Second Screen: A Review for Brands

The convergence of entertainment and social media, coupled with the rise of connected TV viewing, has created both opportunities and challenges for brands vying to get their message in front of consumers. Advertisers are no longer in an era where simply placing a commercial on television is enough to reach consumers. Brands should instead leverage these new consumer trends in social TV, companion device viewing and alternative consumption platforms to further extend the reach of their advertising campaigns.

Social Television

Social TV is an active conversation about what viewers are watching that lives in the digital space. Currently, it is dominated with chatter about the shows themselves, yet brands can use this viewing behavior, shifting their paradigms to begin seeing their commercials as 30-second TV shows. Stimulating social conversation should be a side objective of every ad, as it helps to further extend the reach of the brand.

This can be a challenge. Television shows have 30 minutes or more to get viewers conversing about what they’re watching, while brands only have more like 15 to 30 seconds. Clear and concise social calls-to-action are of paramount importance in this limited screen time medium.


2012 Social TV Ecosystem

Second Screen

Not only are people looking to secondary devices to converse about programming, they are also using them for companion content to enhance the viewing experience. This multi-tasking behavior while consumers are watching television has been fueled by the rise in smartphone and tablet adoption in households. Both networks and third-party companies are developing second screen applications, which create both show-specific and show-agnostic platforms. What consumers and advertisers end up with is an incredibly complex and fragmented ecosystem with each serving varying degrees of reach and purpose.

Data has shown that viewers who engage in second screen activities are more likely to stay in front of the TV during commercial breaks, and their engagement in the overall programming is increased. Variances in functionality of these second screen apps make advertiser involvement challenging, requiring customized campaigns for each platform.

Brands also make the mistake of waiting around for networks or third-party providers to develop experiences that they believe would work well to engage their target demographics and customers. If they see an opportunity that is not being met in the marketplace, advertisers should consider moving forward with their own custom experiences.

With TV spots increasingly becoming short-form entertainment mediums, brands should consistently evaluate new ways to leverage their ads. This can occur during real-time social TV conversations or through companion watching devices with extended cuts, bonus content, games and behind-the-scenes features.

Even the paid media world has drastically shifted, creating more challenges in this fragmented ecosystem. Some networks have recognized the importance of integration and are working to make it easier for brands to purchase advertising across the traditional, digital and social properties for their shows. This shift is still in its infancy, and in most cases, ad buying across platforms continues to be an isolated task.

Connected Viewing


One of the most radical shifts in how viewers are consuming content is through the rise of Internet-based distribution. These “cord cutters” and “TV everywhere” viewers are no longer watching the primary network broadcast. Instead, they are choosing to move to alternative delivery platforms that are, in most cases, time-shifted viewing environments.

This behavior has created a tremendous opportunity for brands to target their advertising dollars to levels of customization not possible today through a traditional ad buy. For some advertisers, it may be smarter to skip the broadcast purchase and go straight for the digital distribution buy to maximize ad spend. Brands may even leverage the applications within the connected TV environments to become content producers themselves, something not possible in the traditional cable and satellite delivery platforms.

There are no one-size-fits-all solutions for brands to take advantage of these new trends in entertainment viewing. The game has changed and advertisers must find ways to navigate the complexities around harnessing social conversations, companion device viewing, and the shift in platforms where customers are viewing broadcast content. Even with these challenges, there has never been a more exciting or greater opportunity to use personalization and creativity to get your brand message in front of viewers.

Advertisers who look at their television budgets holistically with these other extensions in mind will be better equipped to extend the reach of their message and interact with consumers.

This originally appeared on the Engauge Blog August 20, 2012