Synchronized Ads Dunk on the Competition

There have been a number of studies showing the effectiveness of Sync Ads – digital ads synchronized to live TV spots – on second screen devices like tablets, laptops and smartphones. We’ve run campaigns for a number of brands, like Ford Lincoln Mercury, Go Daddy and Molson with some of the major TV networks and sports leagues, and some independent, dedicated TV companion apps demonstrating significant improvements in engagement and brand recall. However, there’s still a tremendous audience of ‘second screeners’ on their favorite device, multi-tasking while watching TV but not necessarily on a dedicated companion app, perhaps on their favorite website or app.

NBA playoffs

We’ve been hard at work developing ways to reach that huge multi-tasking, second screen audience with digital ads sync’d to what viewers at watching.  Recently, we ran a live A/B test of digital Sync Ads across the web with our platform, and saw very strong results.

We ran digital creative (of a major consumer brand advertising during the NBA playoffs) and targeted it towards those online and likely to be watching the game.  For purposes of this A/B test, we ran Sync Ads online at the same time as the brand’s TV spots were airing and at other times, ran the same ads when they were not in sync.  Results for the Sync Ads showed a CTR 97% higher than the non sync’d ads.

This is the first of a number of campaigns we’re planning but early results on targeted web inventory reiterate what we’ve seen with Sync Ads on dedicated apps (and what intuitively makes sense): Delivering digital ads to TV viewers on their devices, in sync with what they’re watching, works.

As agencies develop digital creative more tailored for the second screen, e.g., following up on a TV spot’s message with a more direct call to action, offer or some online engagement, results should prove even more powerful.

Super Bowl Synchronicity

As ‘water cooler’ events go, the Super Bowl is about as big as it gets.  Given the surge of activity since last year’s game across the social TV and companion app landscape, there’s going to be a huge amount of activity this year.  Clearly this will be the biggest Super Bowl for ‘second screen’ and social TV apps. Apps and websites with any game-related content should see huge traffic spikes from last year.  What’s most interesting is that with all the interest in this burgeoning space, a number of national brands are looking to target this growing audience.

Some brands have created their own game and brand specific apps like Chevy.  As a demonstration of our synchronization platform, we’re running ads with a number of Super Bowl advertisers (including perennial game advertiser Go Daddy).  With them, we’ll be delivering digital advertising on social TV / companion apps sync’d in real-time to their TV spots during the game.  Ads will run on both iPhone apps and websites.  So, for those viewers engaged with apps like PrePlay Sports and Tapcast, when certain TV commercials run during the game, a complementary digital spot (a “Sync Ad”) will display on their smartphones, tablets or laptops.

We’ve seen huge levels of engagement with such ads in previous tests (e.g Ford on USA Networks’ Character Chatter app) and look forward to substantive learning from this initiative.  We’re planning to do research around these campaigns and look forward to sharing that post-Super Bowl.  This Super Bowl Sync Ad campaign is the first of a number of ‘water cooler’ events around which we plan to run Sync Ads.

Other upcoming events include the Oscar’s and the Final Four.  If you’re a brand or agency planning any TV advertising during any of these upcoming events and want to connect with the growing social TV audience, please reach out to us.  We’d love to discuss how this new medium can work for your brand.

Must See Facebook?

For those who haven’t made it to Cannes this week, there’s a big conference there called MIPTV with a lot of focus on TV, social media and new ways to engage audiences.

One speaker was Facebook’s Christian Hernandez Gallardo, Head of International Business Development, and he spoke in particular about how Facebook Places can now be used as a ‘check in’ application for TV shows by highlighting time and place.

Facebook has huge traffic and does see lots of traffic spiking around shows.  But while Facebook Places may provide some functionality and facilitate some communication among friends, its focus as a broad platform may not offer the best user experience.  Show-specific companion apps for example may offer better experiences.

An important point he does raise around connecting with fans off-hours is certainly an area ripe for opportunity.  And the plethora of likes and interests that Facebook has on millions of users also may play into recommendations by either Facebook or others apps that can access such data.

“Where we wanna go with television is creating a social experience,” he said. “The thing I’m dying to make social is the EPG… I’m never gonna make it to channel 235, so how do I discover what I want to be entertained with. What if I could log in to a site, or my set-top box or my TV, and tell the system what I wanna be entertained with?” The idea: a system could use someone’s Facebook data to recommend shows to them.

It will be interesting to follow Facebook’s impact in the expanding social TV sector.

Getting Busy While Watching TV

For all the talk about the intersection of social media and TV, what exactly are TV viewers doing online?  Engaging with the show, conversing with other users or just doing the ‘usual’ Facebook/Twitter dance?

Well, based on some recent studies, it seems to be a bit of the ‘usual.’  eMarketer recently reported what TV viewers are up to when watching.  Whether viewers are on Facebook or Twitter while viewing – which they are – they’re not always engaging in show-driven conversations.

…most chatter on Facebook during TV viewing related to a statement of fact (52%), such as “I’m watching [TV show title here].” Another 22% shared additional information about their current states, such as where they were watching the show, who they were with, or listing all their activities throughout the day. Just 19% were starting conversations about the show itself, and 7% were announcing they were either bored or in bed—or both.

While this may indicate the typical multi-tasking and/or lack of attention span, particularly among the younger demographics, another reason may be in play.  While Facebook and Twitter are certainly predominantly used in such circumstances, are they necessarily the best channel?  Or is there a huge opportunity for TV shows and third parties to develop richer, highly engaging, interactive ‘second screen’ environments, where users want to participate more fully.

What (and Whom) Will the ‘Second Screen’ Impact Most?

There’s more and more buzz around the concept of the ‘second screen’ as it relates to TV viewing. Stats show a huge number of people are using mobile and tablet devices while watching the tube. Sometimes they’re emailing and web surfing, but other times they’re using their connectivity to interact around their show.

This increasing trend is going to have impact around a number of TV viewing constituencies.  A recent blog post from Steve Van Belleghem highlights some of the issues.  One interesting point he raises concerning TV advertisers’ fear of inattention (at best) and avoidance (at worst) to a show’s TV spots is how the ‘second screen’ can minimize that.

…consumers tend to switch less between TV stations during commercial breaks because they check their social media at that time. The higher the adoption of social media, the lower switching between commercial breaks.

As viewers become more engaged with TV show companion apps and websites, ad viewership can possibly be maintained.  And as Steve adds that such apps can also increase engagement around the show’s content, they can also be used to improve the overall advertising experience and more importantly, its effectiveness.

Clearly, there’s a huge opportunity for TV advertisers to be part of this ‘second screen’ movement. Engaging viewers intelligently and when appropriate can yield substantive brand benefits.  We’ll talk more about how they may do this in coming posts.

TV is dead. Long live TV!

There’s a great presentation from Mobile Behavior called “Hybrid Media: How Social is Enabling Event TV.”  They discuss how today’s youth are predisposed to be more participatory while watching TV, rather than just sit back passively.  And TV still provides the environment that can bring millions of people together for common, shared experiences.

Importantly, they stress that TV and the internet are not a ‘zero-sum’ game, rather technologies that are converging to reinforce and amplify each other. The key question they pose is:

So how can television programmers and advertisers get involved in this emerging behavior and enhance the experience?

To Mobile Behavior, it’s what they call “Conversational Geography.”  The key is to create “collaboration of programming and content across screens” (the “second screen”).  They view this as possible through a variety of channels, platforms and activities.  We’ll look into some of these in our next post.

Welcome to the Second Screen

We’re the team at SecondScreen Networks…But what exactly is this “second screen?”

The advent of the “Second Screen” is changing the way we watch television.  No longer a solo passive activity, the extraordinary capabilities of mobile and tablet applications are changing our level of engagement when watching the ‘tube.’  Now we can chat with friends and fellow viewers, interact with a show’s story and increasingly be part of the action, be it with your smartphone, tablet or laptop.

We believe we’re still in the nascent stage of what we’ll have and be using shortly (sort of like those pre-cable TV days with only about 10 stations!).  Not too soon, it may even be strange to remember we just sat silently on the couch.  There are already a slew of apps and sites for TV viewers to engage more closely with favorite shows, friends and fellow visitors.

And TV advertisers are moving to the second screen too.  No longer content to simply run non-particpatory, non-engaging ads on the ‘first screen,’ innovative marketers and agencies are looking at the second screen as a way to become part of this new participatory behavior by the TV viewing audience.  TV audiences are growing; advertisers just need to be where they are engaged and be able to converse with them.  That’s where SecondScreen Networks comes in.

We’ll have more to say about what we’re building in coming posts.  For now, we’d love to hear from you as we build out the first ad network for the two screen future, or actually the present!  Whether you’re a marketer, agency, app developer, online publisher or TV programmer, you’re part of the two screen ecosystem.  You’re not?  Then contact us today ( and we’ll help you get there