MBPT Spotlight: How Technology Can Recapture Distracted Second-Screeners

The iPhone launched in 2007, leading to the 76% smartphone penetration in the U.S. today. As of December 2013, 44% of U.S. online consumers owned a tablet. The rise of mobile devices and tablets has transformed our lives, making multitasking the new norm. One of the many things these ever-present devices impact is TV viewing behavior, where parallel usage of a second-screen device captures a viewer’s attention. In turn, advertisers—who rely on TV to help drive awareness and sales—are affected.

Lack of integration across TV and online ads hurts business. In the fall of 2014, we researched TV advertisers in the U.S., the U.K. and Germany and compared their TV ads to their homepages. The study found only one in four brands prominently displayed the product advertised on TV on their homepage, with only one in six displaying the product on the mobile version of product homepages. This means marketers are spending millions for TV ads, but most lose interested viewers who go to product websites or their mobile phones to find more information.

Since today’s TV viewer is being driven to distraction by second screens, how can marketers recapture these wandering eyes?

New technologies may steal a viewer’s attention, but technology can also be an answer to reclaiming distracted second-screeners. TV syncing technology marries the power of television advertising with the interactivity of mobile devices by serving an accompanying digital ad on second-screen devices the instant the TV ad airs. With TV syncing technology, there’s no need for the viewer to download or use a separate app, have a Smart TV or other special equipment. TV syncing technology reaches the distracted multiscreen viewer, where he or she is— reading the news, checking Facebook,or playing an app game.

Here’s how TV advertising syncing works:

1. The instant a TV commercial airs, a TV monitoring network detects the ad on the linear TV signal and sends that information to a real-time advertising platform. The basis for the synchronization is an automated content recognition (ACR) technology that detects a TV ad the moment it is aired.

2. This real-time detection activates the corresponding online ad exchange to begin bidding for display inventory. This bidding and buying process happens in real time and usually goes the length of the TV commercial.

3. All impressions offered on the exchanges for those 30-60 seconds run through a probabilistic model to serve the ads only on second-screen devices for viewers who are watching the relevant TV channel at that moment.

What’s the benefit?

Syncing TV and digital ads not only recaptures the distracted TV viewers’ attention but also opens up an immediate connection for consumer engagement, without the second screen viewer having to actively do anything. For brands, their audience is now just a click away and they can find out more and engage with the ad should they so desire.

The benefit for the viewer is the simplicity TV syncing adds to the second-screen experience. For instance, 27% of TV viewers look up product information online after watching a TV advertisement. With TV syncing, viewers don’t have to search or take multiple steps to find out more about the brand or product they just saw. When they are served the same ad content on their second-screen device, they are able to directly click and connect with relevant information.

Another benefit is that real-time detection allows advertisers to measure and analyze the direct impact of a TV ad on their website key performance indicators (KPIs). Advertisers can test and optimize campaigns, identifying the best performing TV time slots and optimizing their TV ad return on investment.

TV advertisers and media buyers have to stop thinking of TV as a separate medium from online and mobile. Today’s audience leads an interconnected life, so connected storytelling across multiple screens is necessary. TV, websites, Facebook, Twitter, digital ads and search ads should all be telling the same story. TV syncing technology can help connect all these separate but interconnected screens and marketing channels.

Creating a seamless customer experience with TV, online and mobile content makes it easy for second-screen viewers to find TV-promoted products on homepages. When they do, conversion rates increase on average two- to five-fold.

It can easily start with the TV media buyer and the TV creative. Think about the ease of one click allowing a viewer to book a test drive after seeing the newest Hyundai TV commercial. That’s one powerful way to drive distracted second-screeners to interact.

Schroeter is cofounder and COO ofwywy, a leading company helping national TV advertisers connect in real time with consumers’ mobile and online devices.