A First Look at Second Screens

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When was the last time you watched television without simultaneously glancing at a smartphone, tablet, or any other digital screen? The concept of a television set commanding an entire household's attention is quickly becoming as quaint as a Norman Rockwell painting.

According to Nielsen's "2012 Cross Platform" report, 85 percent of mobile device owners use their tablet or smartphone while watching TV at least once per month, and 40 percent do so daily. Forty-one percent use a tablet while watching TV daily, and 39 percent use a smartphone.

As their audience's attention becomes increasingly fragmented, marketers are taking notice and beginning to adapt. Reaching out to viewers through the "second screen" (i.e., tablets and smartphones) with advertisements or app experiences that complement what is being shown on television is gaining traction among marketers, notes David Cooperstein, a vice president and analyst at Forrester Research.

"Even though second-screen advertising is still new for a lot of marketers, we were already seeing some aggressive experimentation twelve months ago," Cooperstein says.

In a recent Forrester survey of more than 120 advertisers conducted through a partnership with the Association of National Advertisers, 49 percent of the respondents said they were experimenting or will experiment with ads synchronized to a second screen like a PC, tablet, or smartphone, as well as with targeted TV ad placements.

Shazam for TV

Michael McGuire, a research vice president at Gartner, agrees that advertisers are looking for more ways to follow consumers onto their mobile devices. When it comes to engaging viewers through a smartphone or tablet, though, simply rehashing an online display ad or television commercial is not going to work, McGuire warns.

"Don't just take your online ad and shove it into these formats," he comments, "because that says 'I don't care.'" A more promising approach, McGuire points out, is connecting the ad or app experience to what a viewer sees on the television set in real time, along with a call to action.

At the 2012 Super Bowl, nearly half of the brands that aired commercials during the event sought to engage viewers further by including an opportunity for them to "shazam" or tag the ads with their smartphones to unlock exclusive offers and content. Similar to scanning a QR code, by pressing a button on the Shazam app on a mobile device, users can get information about a song or television show by holding the device in the direction of the sound.

Last year's Super Bowl was the first major live television event that included Shazam-enabled ads. In exchange for having their ads tagged, companies responded in various ways: Toyota entered Shazam users in a sweepstakes for two Camrys; Pepsi offered a music video; and Best Buy gave out $50 gift cards for a mobile phone. At the game itself, Shazam users could see real-time statistics about the plays and players as well as participate in polls and vote for their favorite ads. During the halftime show, people could get the set list, buy music, and download mobile apps from the artists.

While the company declined to reveal the exact number, it claims that viewers tagged content "millions" of times during last year's Super Bowl and deemed the ads a success. This year's Super Bowl included Shazam-enabled ads as well, which offered viewers polls to vote for their favorite ad, song titles, game statistics, and other information. Shazam did not have any statistics to share about the 2013 Super Bowl when this article was written, but according to David Jones, Shazam's executive vice president of marketing, 85 million people in the United States and 275 million people worldwide have downloaded Shazam on their phones.

Second-screen advertising is "venturing into mainstream territory" with "so many people already tagging ads," Jones maintains. "We're looking forward to more cases where the second screen becomes an extension, another blank canvas, for creative agencies to work with and…make some pretty innovative uses around their brand."

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