Second (Third & Fourth) Screen Engagement: Can YOU Reach ‘Em Now?

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How one industry is cracking the code on the multi-tasking, multi-device experience—and what we can learn from them.

When we talk about cross-device targeting, here’s the dream: To neatly associate devices with activities, locations, behaviors and mindsets, tailor the messaging and call it a day. But in reality, users are interacting with their devices in unpredictable, fragmented ways, and often using multiple devices simultaneously. To accurately serve our clients, we must embrace the totality of the digital experience as an often-messy combination of transitions and distractions.

With a fully-integrated cross-device campaign, advertisers shouldn’t care where the consumers’ distractions take them, as long as their movements can be tracked and measured. Nielsen, comScore, and others are working tirelessly to make that possible. But even once we can capture a consumer’s migrations with a degree of accuracy, we still have to resolve questions about the quality and nature of their engagement–after all, it fractures while they’re using multiple devices simultaneously.

And that makes every marketer’s end-goals of accountability and attribution ever more important, as evidenced by Google’s and AOL’s acquisitions of Adometry and Convertro, respectively.

Co-viewing: Marrying Linear TV with Meaningful Mobile Experiences

Digital multitasking erodes engagement across the board, and of all the mediums, TV has the most to lose. It no longer monopolizes on our visual attention as it once did: Texting, social media, and other mobile-centric activities are now engaging us at all times–not just during commercial breaks or slow parts of the program.

TV networks have responded by seeking ways to capture what they lose in migration to the second screen. Second-screen apps exploded on the market between 2010-2013, though few, if any, clear winners have emerged as a viable long-term play in the space. Examples such as Yahoo’s high-profile IntoNow app have folded due to waning engagement. Today, Shazam offers audio QR recognition for television programs and advertisements which offers a solution for the diminished scenario where the user is actually engaging the TV ad spots and not skipping past in time-shift or turning to a device. Hashtags populate the bottom corners of the TV during programming, encouraging watchers to join in the conversation via Twitter, which can be the source of serious spoiler alerts and/or irrelevant commentary should the content be viewed in time-shift.

Most of the second screen apps in the market fail to unlock the complimentary potential of co-viewing occurring in today’s linear TV watching experience. Most are network or show-specific apps, like CBSConnect, FoxNow, and AMC Story Sync, that tend to be digital extensions of the same content that’s showing in real-time on the TV lacking any real nuance.

There’s one major exception, however, that seems to be closer to cracking the code: Live sports.

Live Sports Know How to Monetize Distraction

While not necessarily marketed as such, fantasy sports apps like DraftKings and FanDuel offer a viewer one of the most engaging co-viewing app experiences out there. Data shows that fantasy sports, and the apps that support them, actually increase engagement in TV’s core offering, feeding new audience to out-of-market and odd-timed games, thereby upping viewership and boosting ad revenues.

The positive impacts on media consumption resulting from the proliferation of fantasy app engagement extends beyond live TV viewership. According to a recent RhythmOne study, more than one-half (56.4%) of fantasy sports participants go online daily to check fantasy league stats, rankings, or scores—16.5% check more than 10 times a day. Sports apps like MLB At Bat, NFL Mobile, NBA Mobile, and the ESPN App enjoy similar stickiness. One ought to look no further than live sports as the traditional linear TV experience that has successfully colonized and monetized the second screen by offering a complimentary co-viewing experience that embraces rather than shuns the fragmented, yet valuable, user engagement happening across multiple devices.

What Can We Learn?

It’s time to take a closer look at the old-fashioned TV-centric media buying strategy. The fantasy sports model proves that marketers ought to heavily consider recruiting their audience in an interactive environment and re-message in TV. Instead of investing small-film-caliber budgets into the production of a :30 spot made for TV, consider spending half of that money on underwriting the creation of the next fantasy sports platform for other entertainment categories. Consumers have shown that they will take the ride so long as the experience is complimentary and relevant.

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