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Sunday, December 16, 2012

Will the Second Screen Kill the Couch Potato?

Today, lots of media analysts are buzzing about the second screen and they have good reason for doing so. Definitions abound but usually describe a companion device or application that allows you to interact with the content of a TV show, movie, video game or music. Others include laptops or Smartphones where you may be doing something unrelated to the programming. For example, during summer baseball games, I often watch an inning or two of a game with a laptop close by and I either answer e-mail or surf the web on a wide variety of subjects.

Ten years ago, many pundits forecast that the Internet would kill TV. Well, the Nielsen people inform us that Americans are watching more TV than ever. It appears that the web, mobile and social media are all rapidly converging with television. Looking at research studies from across the world, you find wide variance in second screen usage but the trend is clearly that more and more of us are multi-tasking as we watch. Verizon, Google, Nielsen, Ericsson and a host of others are available—take your pick. All point to several trends going on both in America and other developed countries:

--25-40% at one time or another browse for products spotted while watching a TV show
---Some 20% are on Facebook or Twitter while viewing
--34% check sports scores of other contests during viewing of games
--60% on tablets read their e-mail
--At some point, 60% use their laptops, Smartphones, or tablets while viewing

All of the above leads to one clear conclusion—distraction to TV viewing is at an all time high and it is not going away!  The great Don Vito Corleone one said “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” If you are an advertiser, you need to embrace your enemy, this increased distraction, head on. You knew for a long time that not everyone was watching your expensively produced spots during commercial breaks. But now that number is in freefall especially among those under 35. So you need to integrate the second screen into your creative strategy. TV, as we knew it, will still work for some.  A small group that could be 10-15% of your viewers can enhance your commercial message as they browse the web to check out the product that you just advertised. The second screen then acts as a companion medium to the traditional TV message. Sometimes it will result in a cross-platform or cross-channel experience for your brand.

I hate to trot out a cliché but the second screen allows you to engage people with your brand and can be interactive if structured properly.  Technology will not stand still and you cannot afford to either. Start testing soon.

Twitter is playing a role that is increasingly rapidly in this space. Just under two years ago, I vividly remember being startled as Audi ran a spot in the 2011 Super Bowl. The hashtag #Progressls ran for only a few seconds at the end of the spot and, for a moment, I thought that I was imagining something.  Since then, a new form of social media, TV’s backchannel, has emerged.  It is real-time chat that is happening DURING the time a program is broadcast. At first, it was during award shows and other special events. Now, it is rampant. Thousands of member of the Twitter community often respond instantaneously when something happens. Networks look carefully at the tweets when a new program airs. The sample may be a bit biased but it is huge and will soon be a predictor of which shows will survive the Nielsen cut.

Commercials also get their fair share of reaction that provides valuable insights to advertisers and can actually get a buzz going about your company both positive and negative. Also, the power of the hashtag can strike in unlikely areas. Watching a GOP debate in January 2012, I found that I could monitor viewer comments on the Meet the Press Facebook page. Questions were sent in but I found  some of the tweets very absorbing reading.

So Social Media and TV now have some measurable co-usage. It is time for many advertisers to get on board. The backchannel will work for national advertisers and for some regional players but will likely have far less utility for smaller, local players.

For years, we worried that many young adults would be zombies watching an increasing amount of TV with each passing year. Now, it appears that the couch potato, thanks to social media, has a rendezvous with death.

If you would like to contact Don Cole directly, you may reach him at doncolemedia@gmail.com

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