Why second screens are critical to engagement

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Well done, everyone. Second screens are here to stay, and they've transformed the digital landscape. But now it's time to stop cheerleading and start doing something about it. We've waited this long to build a second screen audience, but now that we finally have their attention, what are we doing with them? Behind all the marketing jargon to differentiate one second screen player from another, the most important component of any digital revolution is being ignored -- the consumer.

Until now, the industry has focused on what second screen technology can do and not what consumers can do with it. A brand relationship is about more than just providing Twitter feeds, links to IMDb, and quizzes. This is not a simple competition for eyeballs, but rather a race for brand engagement -- the ultimate goal of any producer, content owner, or advertiser.

How second screens are critical to engagement

The simple act of leaning back and watching TV is undoubtedly one desired outcome for every content producer, distributor, broadcaster, and advertiser. But is it the best one for both the viewer and the brand? Let's leverage the distracted viewer. If consumers are fiddling with their tablets and smartphones while they watch TV, maybe they simply want something to do! That very distraction is an opportunity for content owners and advertisers to latch on.

Second screen wish list

I'd love to see a program's second screen experience developed into something that creates more viewership than the program itself. Let's stop talking about Netflix driving viewers into marathon viewing comas and instead ask how content producers and distributors are making content and stories to specifically enhance a TV show's brand on the second screen. Make second screen content part of the storytelling magic. What if a viewer could get a Wikipedia style back story on their favorite TV characters?  Done! What about giving "House of Cards" fans access to "archival" campaign videos of Frank Underwood's first run for Congress? Done!

Give viewers more layers of reality to engage with as part of the storytelling process, and every screen can work for you. The potential for deepening the viewer's connection to a story is limited only by our creative imagination. Want to talk social? Twitter feeds for characters should be the rule, not the exception.

Advertisers also need to embrace fragmentation -- now. We've seen that synchronized ads bring higher engagement, so why wouldn't we make this a reality? Bridging a call to action with brand awareness is only the first step -- evaluating the effectiveness of a TV spot against the outcome or behavior the advertiser is striving for is the next. Is the viewer sharing the content? Are they requesting more information from the brand? Or are they downloading (and later using) a digital coupon? These are questions advertisers and brands need to be asking themselves to create compelling and engaging second screen content. It's no easy feat for content owners and producers to create complex storylines for second screens alongside the primary programming, but while the content owners are busy figuring out that piece of the puzzle, advertisers have a fantastic playground at their feet.



Chris Chasty
Chris Chasty March 20, 2013 at 2:57 PM

Second screen viewing is definitely on the rise and I have seen some great uses so far by advertisers and content producers:

Lately I've noticed Shazam embedded in commercials on TV (US Navy for instance).

HBOGo also has a very cool interactive second screen experience for their shows such as Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones that provides a large amount of content that corresponds with the segments of the show in real time. While watching the interface updates the additional content while viewing. You can view in depth character bios, maps of the locations, video interviews with actors and film crew, and more.