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MBPT Spotlight: How TV Advertisers Can Leverage Smartphones to Boost Their ROI

This should come as a surprise to no one, but the mobile revolution -- it's not just happening, it's already happened. Ages ago.

Seven out of 10 American adults today own smartphones, and of those smartphone owners, eight out of 10 admit to keeping them close at hand for all but two of their waking hours.

The average user spends 2 hours and 57 minutes daily staring at the 'small screen'. For the first time ever, mobile phone use has outstripped TV viewing, which falls just short at an average of 2 hours and 48 minutes per user per day. For dedicated users, these numbers diverge even more.

If the difference still sounds fairly minimal, consider that television is devoted almost exclusively to long-form content (movies and shows of half an hour or more) while most mobile videos span just seconds. You'd have to consume somewhere in the ballpark of 60 YouTube videos to make up for a single feature length movie.

So, where are consumers getting all this 'extra time' to stand around staring at their iPhones?

Anywhere they can find it. People reach for their smartphones while waiting in line at the local coffee shop, taking the bus in to work, and even in awkward silence at the dinner table. At this point, there's no major city in the world where motorists and cab drivers don't complain about the screen-addicted zombies who step into crosswalks without checking for cars. Mobile users are on the go, and they consume content in bite-sized pieces.

But that's not the whole story. There's another context where mobile device usage spikes dramatically: primetime TV hours. Specifically, during commercial breaks.

That's right: much to the chagrin of TV advertisers, there's substantial overlap between TV time and mobile device time. What's more, as Americans clock more 'screen time' across an ever-expanding suite of devices, TV time has remained stagnant, while mobile time continues to grow. TV advertisers who hope to stay in the game will have three options: ignore it, compete for attention, or embrace it and find a more creative solution.

Assuming that the first option isn't really viable, and that the second leaves no room to gain a competitive edge, advertisers will need to seek out what Discovery Communications calls "the Engagement Effect." The phenomenon is unlocked when mobile enhances the TV experience rather than detracting from it. In their study, Discovery found that 23% of viewers' simultaneous mobile activity is related to what they're watching on TV, and 28% of viewers said they were more likely to search for an advertised product if also using a mobile device at the time. They also report being less likely to fast-forward through commercials. Therein lies the silver lining.

Advertisers have always had to contend with distractions, but with viewers turning to smartphones rather than books, magazines, and conversation, there's a unique opportunity to turn that 'distraction' into an advantage.

It all comes down to cross platform advertising solutions. Namely, using mobile to augment TV experiences so that they make viewers more likely to engage and make a purchase rather than less so.

There are a number of ways to do that. The sensors on your smartphone are already sophisticated enough to use audio, image cognition, and hardware to detect what you're missing on the big screen and reinforce it. If TV makes an emotional connection, a phone call turns that into a direct, human connection. Phone numbers are already a common feature in television ads, but by taking things one step further and, say, putting a pop up for the commercial you've muted directly into your mobile game, advertisers can make engaging with ads even more seamless. And once they do, you're governed by the principles of what does and doesn't work in mobile advertising.

At Marchex, we're in the business of click-to-call advertising, and we've used our call analytics platform to uncover some surprising insights into how mobile consumers behave.

The first is that, as compared to desktop, mobile is an entirely different animal. On desktops, the most common response to an online search or advertisement is a website visit. On smartphones, the most common response to a mobile search is an "offline" action — most often a phone call, followed by an in-store visit. By 2019, there will be a projected 162 billion mobile phone calls to businesses, and Americans will be spending more than $2 trillion in click-to-call commerce.

These calls are incredibly high-value. Unlike a TV ad, a billboard, or a web search, a call connects a merchant with a prospect in the flesh – or nearly in the flesh. There is no separation of miles and pages of inscrutable content and Internet ether. The customer is right there, on the line, asking questions. Once again, old-fashioned salesmanship has an opportunity to blossom.

Don't just take my word for it though — the conversion rates prove it. In the cable industry, for example, 60% of inbound phone calls from advertisements are product or service related, and those calls convert at a rate of 15%.

That's four times higher than desktop, and on a par with what TV placements used to achieve in the pre-Netflix and DVR days, for a fraction of the cost.
In addition to leveraging the 'second screen' ad experience to complement TV ad programming, advertisers can also up their returns by targeting key demographics. Mobile callers are more likely to be young, single, and of relatively low income; but income aside, these 'millennials' have extraordinary purchasing power, spending $1.3 trillion annually. They're more connected than any generation before them, and they're eager to connect directly with businesses.

Obviously, marketers miss crucial sales opportunities when calls from consumers go unanswered. But they're missing even more opportunities when they don't give consumers the chance to call in the first place.

If appropriate call center staffing can improve ROI by a minimum of 10% — and we've seen that it does — just imagine the impact that could be made by incorporating click-to-call mobile ads into the TV viewing experience. There's a whole world of possibilities — and potential leads — out there just waiting to be discovered.

Marchex is a mobile advertising analytics company that connects online behavior to real-world, offline actions. The company provides products and services for advertising agencies, national brands and local partners, all designed to drive calls to its clients and measure the results.