Keeping Viewers Distracted, With TV Commercials Slipping Through

A recent general theory is that second screens help the first screen. But perhaps not in the ways you think.

Watching a TV show by traditional means (first screen), you might be lured to find that show’s specific app or website on your smartphone or tablet for more information (second screen). All that will foster a deeper engagement -- but not completely.

With 50% of the country having the ability to time-shift programming -- and with fast-forwarding through commercials now becoming an ingrained behavior -- a lot has been made about what viewers are doing on their living room couches with their smartphones or tablets. Much of this subject was discussed at length at the OMMA Video on Devices event in Los Angeles this week.

Turns out that along with the 50% of the country who have DVRs, 50% of the country has smartphones as well. (Are they the same homes? Hmmm... ) How many are using their second screens at the same time as watching their first screen? We don't know for sure. Research isn't clear about what people are exactly doing in their multitasking efforts.



But one thing we know for sure: All those viewers are busy. Then a TV commercial comes on. But do viewers immediately pick up the remote to do you-know-what --- or do they go to their smartphones and tablets? I'm guessing the latter -- and all that is somewhat good news for traditional TV marketers.

"Somewhat,” because viewers are checking email, sending out tweets, or looking at a related TV app. It means they may have missed the moment to fast-forward through a TV commercial. Instead they might be found at least listening to the audio of a TV commercial or two before they realize they need to find that remote.

Pre-roll advertising in the digital video world still grows, representing the better part of the $3 billion that is spent per year in the business. Overall, in the digital world, that means consumers are still being trained that skipping is not a real option -- especially in the area of premium video like TV shows. (To be fair, shorter-length videos on some popular digital platforms have  “skip” buttons.)

What's a marketer to do? Find a way to synchronize those video ads somehow on the second screen, be it smartphones, tablets or otherwise? That kind of media disruption will just continue to foster consumer apathy and anger.

All this won't stop. Because we are increasingly a multitasking bunch of consumers – ironically, pushed by content owners and media marketers who are looking for new ways of monetization in a fractionalized content/entertainment world.

3 comments about "Keeping Viewers Distracted, With TV Commercials Slipping Through ".
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  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, October 25, 2012 at 3:14 p.m.

    Who waits for a commercial to check their smartphone? Even in live shows, that's what the pause button on the DVR is for!

    It seems a shame that an entire industry is built on "interruption"!

    Skipping is ALWAYS an option, even on pre-rolls, said the user with a smartphone and a mute switch.

  2. Rob Frydlewicz from DentsuAegis, October 25, 2012 at 6:02 p.m.

    I've always found commercial breaks a good time for paging through my magazines or catalogs. In fact, I once wrote an article titled "The TV Set and Magazine Should Be Friends".

  3. Bob Paine from The Bob Paine Group, October 26, 2012 at 8:22 p.m.

    2nd screens aren't all that new. 20 years ago, mine was called the evening newspaper.

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