There was a lot of time to multitask during last Sunday’s Golden Globes. Ricky Gervais was tepid at best, and generally unfunny at worst. The winners often seemed unaffected by the award themselves. More than a few acceptance speeches felt almost condescending. Spielberg looked as if he was going to toss the thing to an assistant as if to say, here, you can have this one. Meryl Streep’s tiresome mock and fluttery surprise at winning (as if she is going to succumb to the “vapors”) reminds us that even the “best actress of her generation” can be the worst, too. And there was no apparent drunkenness. Unless a celebrity is embarrassing him or herself, or Gervais is doing it for them, I hardly see the point of this show. It was a good time to warm up the iPad and see what was on that screen.
Among the many third-party second-screen apps vying for iPad attention, Yahoo’s recently acquired IntoNow seems to be thinking hardest about what a tandem screen experience might be. In the case of the Golden Globes, I was surprised to see that one of the on-air advertisers, Kraft’s Velveeta brand, was echoed on the app in both a display ad and a series of sponsored polls.
This kind of synchronous advertising across mobile and TV is precisely where second- screen models want to move, so I checked in with IntoNow CEO and founder Adam Cahan to discover that the campaign was as much about cross-platform integration with his new parent company Yahoo as was with TV. The deal with Kraft was direct to Yahoo and not tied in with the TV buy, although obviously someone at Kraft knew what they were doing. The IntoNow execution was part of a broader Kraft campaign that reached across many of the entertainment properties like OMG! The online space promoted the brand and also heightened awareness of the IntoNow second screen experience.
“This was the first time we did synchronized polling,” says Cahan. There were a dozen “Velveeta Cheesy Skillet” polls throughout the show, most pertaining to celebrities and nominated films, responses to red carpet fashion, etc. The big surprise was the level of engagement. Cahan tells me “27% of the audience in the app participated in the poll.” It was a part of a general engagement strategy that also paid off in peer-to-peer banter that saw over 180 different discussion threads going on in the app during the show.
This is the second milestone moment for IntoNow and its experiments in cross-platform programming. In a recent ABCNews Republican Party Primary debate, questions from IntoNow actually were integrated into the exchanges between moderator George Stephanopoulos and the candidates. Candidates were responding to polls that IntoNow was conducting in the app, Cahan says.
The introduction of the iPad version of IntoNow in November has given the group much more real estate with which to play. Its recent upgrades now have genres and show-specific enhancements. For news programming, the app scans the closed captioning in the on-air news and then surveys the social networks to surface articles that people are buzzing about related to the current topic. In football, the app provides a play by play. And in popular shows like "Family Guy," the app pulls in the Twitter feeds of all the cast and crew.
Cahan says we are at a fascinating point where the tablet challenges second-screen programmers to think differently about their users' behavior in the living room. “We are talking about ‘ambient information,’” he says. “What I mean by that is, how to take a very limited set of user inputs and surface increasing amounts of information for them without having to require a lot of user input.”
We are only beginning to appreciate the different between keyboard and text mode at a PC, and the unique mode of tablet browsing during that prime-time zone when Cahan says 40% of tablet use appears to be taking place. He seems to appreciate the problem I had with many of the early second-screen experiences: too much secondary information. The viewer doesn’t want to feel as if she has to tend the app in sync with the main screen. After all, this is still about watching television. “It is less intent-driven [than] a PC," he says. "You are engaging in and out. It is a more passive consumer, offering limited inputs."
We will see more rollouts in the first quarter that put into practice some of this insight, he says. The number of Yahoo home page visits coming from tablets has doubled in the last year, and people are staying longer, reading more and watching more video from this device often than they do from a desktop. “We’re tapping into a new behavior, and we’re trying to define that,” he says.
From my obviously limited-one time exposure to a brand reaching across both TV and tablet screens, the effect was unique. I didn’t encounter the IntoNow ad synchronously with the on-air exposure, but the app sponsorship sparked my memory of the spot I had seen earlier.
I have seen this effect before in earlier sync efforts with the Web. In most cases, the second screen was used to engage interactivity. In this case, the campaign was more about branding and sponsorship. Clicking through on the display ad did not seem to be the point. I was not being prompted to get that Velveeta recipe. But as Adam suggests, the experience on the tablet and the level of intimate engagement is on a wholly different plane from the laptop.
How that dual-screen recognition and reinforcement happens over time is anyone’s guess. But imagine a time when second-screen advertising in sync with the first screen is presumed. Imagine a Super Bowl or Oscars where mobile users knew at the outset that the spots they were seeing on air would be echoed in some way, with some opportunity for replay or interaction, on the device. Or that the spots and their brands would be collected in DVR fashion on that tablet? That would be a second screen worth watching.