What Is The Second Screen Or Why Are We Discussing It?

I recently chaired a conference about Screens. This was very exciting -- but I keep wondering why we actually have to discuss this topic so often, and in so much depth.

Back in the day, when TV first came to households, there was a concern it would take the place of radio. Radio used to be something special for the family to gather in front of, and when TV came about, it was replaced. Radio turned into more of a background activity whereas TV became more engaging. There and then. In the moment. 

And to a certain extend it is still today, although now TV has moved to the background. Who hasn’t seen the family gathered around the TV, each member with their own little device watching or doing something else. Family time in the 21st century? 

Let’s think of the user for a moment. Do they really care on which device they consume? At the end of the day, it is a screen for them, a piece of glass. A speaker at a conference argued the other day that the second screen must be the definition of the “biggest available and convenient screen at the time of consumption”. This could be a good definition, yet why wouldn’t we use the TV to go on Facebook whilst watching catch up on our mobile? Where are we more engaged: on the closest screen or the most interactive?

The digital community would agree that most people pick what they want to watch and when to watch it. Catch-up TV. That is done on a computer, tablet or mobile, on the commute, in bed, or even on the toilet. And, with the increase of social media, we are now in a position to openly discuss what we think about a TV show, share our comments with friends on Facebook or on Twitter with the wider world. Whoever wants to listen to our opinion can do so and is engaged with us. #Hashtags give us a way of funneling it into one stream.

However, the second screen will have an impact on the quality of contact, as the attention to TV will be reduced when mobiles, tablets, laptops are in use. If we happen to use an app for “X Factor” whilst watching the show, clever audio recognition will show us the same ad on both devices. Amazing! We are synchronising our advertising across those screens through identifiers that are not cookies in order to make our second screen more engaging, increasing the CTR and, ultimately, the ROI based on the TV “limit measurable” branding budget. We will be able to justify any advertising spend! 

Recent studies have seen a 38% increase in brand awareness through synchronised ads and an 8% increase in purchase intention, according to a TNS Infratest October 2013 study). As you can imagine, this has huge potential for real-time bidding on TV advertising via connected TVs. Will we be able to have an ad delivered to any app or mobile web-based on the highest bidder during the TV show ads? Will we do that without cookies and, if someone turns off their microphone for sound identification (latest technology), how will we target then? That, I suppose, is like deleting cookies.

There is no doubt that people use their phone instead of doing their ironing whilst watching TV and make use of social media to engage with their community about the programme in the background. And, by having synchronised and targeted ads, you will ultimately increase engagement and brand awareness. The debate, however, whether the TV is the actual second screen and mobile the first screen might be something for another time.

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