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Second Screen Advertising - How Brands Will Use Our Phones and Tablets to Reach Us

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Think about it - when is the last time you sat still watching a TV show? Chances are, even with your favorite football match or reality series on, you're still fiddling with another screen - be that a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop, or whatever screen the fingertips land on. This shift in consumer behaviour is on the increase every day, with anywhere between 63 percent to over 80 percent of people engaged with another device as they watch the ol' big screen. And advertisers are keen to seize on to this trend and are grappling with the best ways to capture the very real and equally exciting potential of second screen advertising.

Media experts have already tapped into the potential of second screens, or dual-screening, as a way to reach people from a generic mass audience broadcast on the first screen (the TV) to a more personal interaction on the second screen in that individual's hand. Broadcasters, brands and advertisers alike are in a heated race to find ways to engage viewers with relevant and rich second-screen content.

The Big Click Won't Stick
But what do we really mean by second screen, after all? It's as simple as having a second screen to duplicate content viewed on another, right? Not quite. The hype in the advertising world over second screens to date has focused on content that either replicates that on the first screen, or puts the onus on the viewer to pursue the content. In other words, see something on TV and do something on your phone or tablet to play along.

However, in the real world, consumers don't click, nor do brand advertisers gain inherent value in them doing so. Meanwhile, online advertising with video content is gaining real momentum. Why? Because click rates for ads with video have increased - in fact, people are over 200 times more likely to click on an in-stream video ad that rolls before an online video than on traditional video-less banner ads. While waving a phone in the air during an ad may initially give you a hey-that's-cool techy thrill, there's still a lengthy gap between those clickable ads that are getting results and the time second-screen content may or may not appear on that screen. So while dual screen advertising is today generating lots of interesting experimentation its likely that the awe-factor will wear off and brands and advertisers will find engaging viewers to activate click-here content more challenging and less effective than other techniques like advertising alongside online video. So is dual screen advertising a flash in the pan?

Push v. Pull
Here's the thing - it shouldn't be up to the viewer to activate second screen content in the first place. The inherent layered richness of video and second screen advertising content goes well beyond the "click" to making advertising content that's relevant and engaging, not something a user has to dig around for. The difference is in a service push, versus a consumer-dependent "pull" for that ad.

Instead, second screen advertising content should be a natural extension, and a reflection of the person connected to that device. That scenario has different versions. First, it's a guy watching a football game at a pub on a big screen, with the smartphone as a second screen. And later that same guy goes home to make a cheese toastie, watching late-night TV in his kitchen, while he checks his tablet on the counter. Now, with technology now available that can trigger richer ad content on a second screen and synchronise it in real time to the TV, reaching people with their organic consumer habits and habitats, will be the next step.

Rethinking TV
Connect to the consumer on their second screen, push real-time ad content to the person behind the screen and have them engaged with your brand. Magic. Push ad content, and push the boundaries of second screens - just how far can we go? In the future, the entire process of creating TV content might sound like a Jetsons episode, but it's not far off. TV shows could have points in the narrative devised to encourage complementary viewing on a second screen. Imagine a product placement for a soft drink aired during a prime-time show. For example, a viewer could wave a phone at an image of the drink, as a product placement during the show, and be directed to additional promotions, coupons, or links for the viewer to directly purchase the beverage. Imagine if the TV spot was 3D, and someone is offering you that drink for you reach out and grab, and in turn the phone appears to fill up with that very drink! The possibilities and potential advertiser tie-in are endless.

Beyond the tech capabilities, the future of second screen advertising is just as much about connecting to the individual viewing the screen - the ultimate scenario that second screen advertising technology needs to realise.