Second Screen Users Can Engage with Ads, or Be Somewhere Else Entirely

I don’t doubt second screen use has increased dramatically, and I don’t doubt it’s helped some brands reinforce their ad message. I guess I do wonder if it’s happening as much as proponents would like to say.

Nielsen data says about 75% of smartphone and tablet users are engaged with second-screen content more than once a month as they view television. About half are doing it every day, which adds up to 50 million people according to Nielsen’s Eric Ferguson, director of digital services.

Viggle teamed with Nielsen earlier to study second screen ads and concluded, not surprisingly, that it helps with ad effectiveness measures like “memorability,” or the likelihood you’ll remember the ads you’ve seen later on. Obviously that helps drive the likelihood of a later sale.

 I say “not surprisingly” because Viggle’s in the business, but also because it seems kind of a no-brainer. You see something enough times, you’ll remember it. Ferguson, in a video on the Nielsen site, assures that it’s unlikely you can burn out seeing a message too many times. Despite loathing the messenger, apparently, it doesn’t hurt the sale.   

But most of these things are true only if that second screen user is using that mobile phone or iPad to play along with whatever they’re viewing on the first screen, or getting more information. And that, I’d say, is a pretty problematic proposition, unless you watch participation shows like “The Voice” or feel compelled to make your viewing a social experience on Zeebox or whatever. (And demographically, it’s true, I’m not Zeebox material. But psychographically, who is?)

My wife sometimes shops One Kings Lane or Amazon when we’re otherwise content-watching. I’d say she’s not fully engaged with either screen. Or it’s just intermittent. During summer months, I’m likely watching while watching whatever else I’m watching. Or I’m reading online, or checking emails. I could hardly be more distracted. I tweet—or rather I read tweets—throughout the night. On a good night, I am deeply and randomly having the kind of disjointed one-screen experience I think most people have.

 A thoughtful survey piece about changing strategies of second-screen marketers by Broadcasting & Cable’s George Winslow suggests I am probably at least a little bit typical. There’s Ian Aaron, CEO of ConnecTV, telling Winslow that it is collapsing features that provide additional content  “Our research found that about two-thirds didn’t want all that ancillary content, so we have focused on social engagement,” by pushing a clip-sharing service, Aaron said.

But, Winslow reports, Viggle’s research says that the second-screen pushed up brand recall and intent to purchase in a major way. Second screen advertising increased intent to purchase for Clorox by 76% last season, an ABC exec says, when conscientiously applied to “The Bachelorette.”

Again, I don’t doubt it’s true. But I suspect a lot of second-screen use is just a newer-tech way of channel surfing and that what the engaged second screen users bring to the sales funnel the otherwise-occupied second screener takes away.

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