2016 has been a pivotal year so far for marketers who want to align themselves with live TV viewing. We’ve had the usual ratings monsters like The Oscars and Super Bowl 50, but also some slightly less expected moments like Grease: Live! and the finale of American Idol. With the TV Upfronts and the Digital NewFronts coming up, I thought I’d share a few learnings around how marketers can best capitalize on much-anticipated live TV events.
Instead of getting hung up on the challenges of live viewing and audience fragmentation, marketers should welcome this rare opportunity to get broad reach while capturing consumers’ attention on multiple screens at once. As Forrester noted, the death of TV is widely exaggerated. So instead of writing an epitaph for TV, let’s acknowledge that live events like this summer’s 2016 Olympics in Rio and the conclusion to the presidential election in November will most likely still draw TV viewers en masse. But viewing behaviors will also be radically different versus four years ago, with mobile devices becoming a direct extension of the live TV experience and a keychannel for audiences to engage with content. With the multitude of touchpoints and opportunities to draw viewers into your branded moments across all screens, it’s never been a better time to be a marketer.
On Feb. 29, a majority (62%) of viewers engaged with the Oscars on their smartphones, with 20% of Millennials watching mobile video during the event. During Super Bowl 50, 52% of viewers were experiencing the game through their smartphone and this number jumped to 71% among Millennials. In fact, February saw 50% of video views coming from mobile devices, with the majority coming from smartphones. Finally, during March Madness, a month-long event, 15% of viewers said they were watching the games exclusively on connected devices while 40% used a combination of TV and online streaming.
With the upcoming summer Olympics and the presidential race, advertisers and publishers are presented with the perfect opportunity to take advantage of these changing mobile video consumption habits. During mass cultural events, mobile takes center stage when viewers are looking for ways to complement their TV viewing experience. It has become the key to engage, entertain and inform viewers when their attention level is peaking. It represents the chance for marketers to appear next to relevant content that appeals to fans at moments that matter the most. And given how much more personal and intimate a smartphone is compared to a large TV screen, marketers can reach audiences with relevant and snackable ads as they lean into the viewing experience and are most receptive to their brand message.
Another key benefit of live TV is the element of surprise of an unscripted storyline. Again, this represents a massive opportunity for brands to capture viewers’ attention by delivering truly personalized ad experiences in real time based on who viewers may be supporting or how the story may be unexpectedly unfolding. Thanks to the power of dynamic creative, marketers can now own the most powerful live TV moments across all connected screens.
And digital platforms have generated a unique breed of live content, which, no matter how mundane, is all about creating a viewing experience that audiences can enjoy collectively. When BuzzFeed recently live-streamed on Facebook two employees testing the number of rubber bands it would take to explode a watermelon, by the time the 44-minute broadcast finished, there were more than 800,000 viewers. Although nothing happened for most of the broadcast, the event became an experience and a moment in the cultural zeitgeist that savvy marketers can attach themselves to and a proof point to the power of live content.
It also shows that marketers should put content and viewing experience at the heart of what they do to build a positive relationship between the consumer and the brand. This rings especially true on mobile devices. Drawing viewers in is all about creating ad content that consumers will want to watch, interact with and share, that will positively enhance their viewing experience rather than disrupt it.
The debate is clearly no longer about choosing between TV and digital. It’s about how to bring the two together to drive maximum impact for your brand while enhancing the viewing experience. And these powerful live television brand and culturally aligned moments are the ideal platform to reach and impact your key audiences across all screens, linear and digital.