Tapping into the second-screening opportunity

Roland Storti, founder of Minfo, argues that mobile can make traditional media more accountable.

The average Brit watches 22.3 hours of TV a week. That’s roughly two series of Game of Thrones and one football match every seven days. Television and its power to entertain is not going away.

It still commands over 31 per cent of the advertising pie in the US. But it’s declining. Constant reports of its death are, however, early and misplaced in my opinion. There’s a couple of key ways to improve the viewing experience. And I plan to outline how TV can gain the accountability it’s been missing. Through mobile it can benefit from an Offline-to-Online (O2O) approach which could see a resurgence in the channel’s impact and therefore spend.

Digital – questions remain
Perhaps a little context to start. All of the hyperbole around digital isn’t new. It’s been gathering support for over two decades. The benefits include measurable statistics on the targeted audience and the ability to tailor the message dependent on their demographic, buying personality or even the stage of their consideration journey. Or so we were led to believe.

The scale of ad fraud still isn’t really known. Some conservative estimates place levels of fraud at $6bn all the way up to $19bn (according to Juniper Research), and that’s just in a single year. Not only that, but marketers also need to safeguard their brand from ad placements across inappropriate content online. Again, the extent is not fully known, but recent events have led to Nestle, Epic Games and Disney boycotting YouTube. Analysts estimated the 2017 spate of boycotts over ad placement cost Google $750m, which sounds like a lot, until you remember it was just 7.5 per cent of its profits from that year.

So yes, there are benefits to digital advertising, which is why it’s the fastest-growing media channel, but there are risks as well.

Down but not out
In an era of fragmentation, TV remains the channel to reach mass audiences. Even if those audiences are shrinking. Take the Oscars last month. It had improved ratings, up 10 per cent according to Neilsen’s figures, on last year’s event. All without a host. Yet take a quick glance over the recent history of the silver screens premiere event and the news isn’t so rosy.

The Academy Awards viewing numbers are down a third from five years ago when they drew 43.7m. The sporting litmus test of TV’s influence, the Super Bowl, is down this year too. Slipping from a high of 114.4m in 2015, to under 100m for the first time in a decade.

The ratings method itself is rather outdated and limited, with only 40,000 households part of its system. It’s still a disconnected means of measurement, akin to the dotcom days of eyeballs rather than clicks as a method of tracking.

While US sports and entertainment properties represent part of a trend in overall decline in the time spent watching the box, it’s not all bad news for marketers. Especially with some companies developing more innovative techniques to keep audiences engaged. And particularly as research, albeit commissioned by an industry body for the medium, does indicate the power of TV is still worth investing in. (Thinkbox study, March 2018: Profit Ability – The business case for advertising.)

Making it addressable
Then we come to programmatic but for TV. In essence, tailoring media buys to audiences rather than programming. There has been notable fanfare around the recent launch of Neilsen’s ‘Advanced Video Advertising Group’, CBS moving into addressable TV in the US, along with Channel Seven in Australia.

US agencies have been able to allow the consumer to control certain elements of an ad, which has seen clickthrough levels soar to six per cent. In the UK, Sky and Channel 4 are leading the way, with ITV having had deals in place with Sorenson Media (before it was sold to Neilsen) since 2017. Expect more channels and more European countries to follow the US and UK’s lead in this respect, as success stories continue to flow from the technology.

These advancements are a step in the right direction as they can provide the level of brand safety which accompanies live TV. However, there’s still an engagement piece missing…

Engagement we could never know
Norwegian-born never.no has been supporting broadcasters and their efforts to speak directly with their audiences since the late ‘90’s. Starting with SMS campaigns, the platform now provides brands, as well as TV execs, the chance to make their viewing more interactive, with social polls and dynamic advertising.

In the US, P&G detergent brand Gain sponsored a segment where viewers of La Voz Kids (The Voice Kids) could send their details via the show’s app and be featured at the end of the programme. Research conducted after the campaign showed an 88 per cent increase in purchase intention for the brand as a result.

In the UK This Morning ran a selfie tree in the lead up to Christmas, where viewers could send in their pictures and be featured on the screen attached to the tree. ITV did Facebook Live broadcasts on the back of its presenters plugging the campaign and achieved over half a million views. The whole campaign was a collaboration between never.no, ITV, ITN Productions and its agency MEC.

There’s a desire from consumers to engage with the shows they watch. Through social or mobile companies like never.no, we’re seeing the emergence of platforms to facilitate that. I expect more mobile engagement success stories in the coming years.

Attribution we couldn’t previously measure
TV’s big appeal – the ability to reach a mass market audience – is also where it can fall down in attribution. Correlation in sales around advertising campaigns is as detailed as most marketers have access to at the moment. Other online platforms such as Google have shown interest levels measured through search around the timing of ads. Effectiveness varies depending on who commissions the research.

Yet how engaged are your viewing audience? Well research from Facebook and Eye Square shows that mobile usage doubles when the ads are on. Even when the main TV programming is on, almost a quarter of people have their phone in hand. And this is backed up by Global Web Index data which goes further and suggests 65 per cent of us in the UK have a mobile in hand, while “watching” TV. Most are not 100 per cent focused on your content at any point. The problem then is competing with the draw of other devices.

So why not focus on where your audience is already? To achieve that much heralded cut-through, there needs to be a frictionless experience for a brand. A platform to provide more info as soon as it’s wanted, without the hassle of search.

There are companies in the O2O (Offline-to-Online) space utilising sound to initialise information delivery onto mobile apps. An inaudible audio QR code, is probably the best way to think of it. By instantly delivering more information which consumers request from TV, radio, billboards and YouTube videos brand marketers have the chance to create ‘Impulse Engagement’ with their campaigns. Consumers now have the ability to respond to any call-to-action in the form of a brand-generated landing page.

The ability to digitise offline media will change the way creatives can design campaigns – more direct response could influence the whole feel. And results for the very first time. Statistics which can demonstrate levels of engagement with offline advertising. It will now be possible to see the true reach of interested consumers.

This is an exciting time for those that want the benefits of digital advertising with the power and reach of traditional media. And all by harnessing the time we already spend with our mobiles, making it much more compelling than just another banner ad. All of which means we expect a resurgence for TV into 2020 and beyond.