Who Knew Mobile Would Fix TV's Ad Attention Deficit Disorder?

The biggest winner coming out of Sunday's Super Ad Bowl wasn't Coinbase, it was mobile-enabled QR codes. Coinbase's spot in the Big Game just demonstrated the power of using mobile devices as a backchannel to a real-time TV advertising experience so powerful that it crashed Coinbase's servers and generated much of the post-Super Bowl advertising buzz for the past several days.

It also demonstrated that decades after they were first introduced, but rarely ever actually worked, QR codes in TV commercials sure as heck work today.

This is good news for both mobile and TV, because it means they have matured as complementary advertising media.

Now mobile devices can seamlessly drive traffic from TV to the web, assuming they incorporate the right creative, call-to-action, or whatever Big Idea advertisers and their agencies can think of. Even if it's just a slow-moving, Pong-like retro screen experience.

I guarantee you that creative directors, strategy teams and media gurus up and down Madison Avenue have taken notice and are whiteboarding QR code integrations even as I write this -- specially when you consider there is no additional cost to integrate a QR code into TV commercials, other than the cost of coming up with good ideas for using them.

So I wasn't surprised to see a pitch this morning from programmatic ad exchange Sharethrough for its new "dynamic" QR code feature for CTV (connected TV) ads, citing some new research to reinforce the value of using them.

The research, which is based on a survey of TV viewers conducted last December, found that only 24% of viewers pay "active attention" to ads during TV commercial breaks, but 79% of them have their mobile phone in their hands. Seem like an opportunity waiting to happen? Well, it was exactly those findings that led Sharethrough to develop the new format.

“Respondents expressed their receptiveness to QR codes," Chief Product Officer Curt Larson said of the new format's lightbulb moment. "Tapping into the use of that second screen can provide advertisers with the opportunity to keep viewers' attention and resonate with them, resulting in greater ROI and more successful advertisements.” 

Even more compelling for advertisers and agencies developing -- or thinking of developing -- QR code TV executions, Sharethrough's research found that using one boosts attention paid to TV commercials by 12%.

That's a big lift for a little code.

6 comments about "Who Knew Mobile Would Fix TV's Ad Attention Deficit Disorder?".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, February 17, 2022 at 7:47 a.m.

    Joe,  the findings that 34% of the respondents claimed that they "usually" watch TV commercials and that even when one deletes claimed sound muting, that the "active" viewer estimate is 24% are not surprising for this kind of polling. But is this really what happens ---per commercial?

    As you know, TVision has been reporting that, on average, 40% of the program viewers---in the room---just before a break look at an average TV commercial for at least two seconds and keep their eyes on the screen for 45-50% of its content. Unlike polls which produce highly generalized findings describing  "usual" behavior as interpreted by a respondent, TVision is a commercial-specific camera style measurement which leaves little room for speculation. The viewer's eyes are either on the screen or they are not.

    I would love to see a weekly cume analysis, which takes all of those who watched any TV, then tells us ---perhaps by quintiles---how many watched any commercial, the average dwell time, etc. ---se we could put to rest the oft cited notion put out by some---not you, by the way---- that a large portion of the audience never watches TV commercials. I'd bet that almost nobody never watches a commercial, though, obviously, there would be gradations from heavy to light viewers. How about it, TVision?

  2. Joe Mandese from MediaPost Inc., February 17, 2022 at 8:39 a.m.

    @Ed Papazian: There's a difference between "dwell time" and cognition. That said, I think you're missing the point, which is the correlation of people holding their mobile phones in their hands. Yes, it's all self-reported data, but at least in terms of how people perceive their media behaviors, there seems to be an opportunity to use QR codes as a backchannel for TV commercials.

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, February 17, 2022 at 9:15 a.m.

    Joe, I don't think that this kind of research tells us how many people watch TV with their cell phones in their hands when commercial breaks appear in terms that apply to an average viewing situation.. The question is usually posed as do you do this "usually"or "often", etc. with the full knowledge that many respondents will say yep when this is not the case every time they watch TV---five hours per day, day after day. The purpose---whether recognized or not---is to plant the idea that this  just about always happens---hence it's a big "problem" for advertisers and, of course, programmatic timebuying will solve this by bringing "relevant" ad messages to consumers---which means that they will be more attentive. Problem solved. 

     It's difficult to buy the idea that 65-75% of the average show's audience has a cell phone in hand when an average commercial appears because the empty room percentage ---per TVision and others---is 25-30%. If the rest (65-75% ) were all using their cell phones---hence avoiding the commercials---that means that nobody watches the ads. If that were the case, advertisers would certainly feel the effects in zero ad awareness studies and terrible sales results.

  4. Dan Ciccone from STACKED Entertainment, February 17, 2022 at 10:38 a.m.

    QR codes have been used in TV ads for many years.  The only thing that has changed is that most phones now recognize a QR code and can immediately go to the source vs. requiring device users to download an app and open the app during a commercial to scan it.

    Many people who watch the superbowl purposely watch the commercials with an expectation of being entertained.  Most programs do not enjoy this luxury. So the attention level is already well-above industry standards for the Super Bowl.

    For the people who actually stay in the room during a commercial break, most people use their mobile phone to keep themselves entertained during commercial breaks, not as a device to look up whatever information is in a commercial that they are trying to ignore.

    The Coinbase ad was a rip from a Burger King ad that ran about in the spring of last year (same concept - moving QR code around the screen).  Not taking away from the effectiveness of the Coinbase ad, but just saying it wasn't a concept.

    QR codes won't save TV commercials, but the pandemic did help propel the use and awareness of QR codes as many people needed to view a menu or show proof of vaccination.

  5. John Grono from GAP Research, February 17, 2022 at 5:30 p.m.

    OK, who is looking forward to having QR codes in every TV ad they see?   I feel an outbreak of ennui would set in should that happen.   Done in moderation and with specific purpose it could be effective.

  6. Joe Mandese from MediaPost Inc., February 17, 2022 at 6:08 p.m.

    @John Grono: OK, who is looking forward to every TV ad they see?

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