Making the most of the second screen

Making the most of the second screen

Although traditional TV viewing is declining as second-screen internet usage increases, innovative technology solutions offer the opportunity for advertisers to capitalise on this culture shift.

Since the birth of commercial broadcasting in the USA in the early 1920s, it has long been the goal of marketers and their clients to maximise the impact of on-air campaigns. Now, the advent of smart devices has propelled us into a new era of synchronised advertising, capable of delivering tailored messages simultaneously across a variety of platforms and media.

The near ubiquity of digital devices – smartphones, tablets and laptops – as sofa companions has opened the way for sophisticated marketing on ‘second-screen’ devices to be tightly married to broadcasting campaigns. An April 2015 report by Accenture – Digital Video and the Connected Consumersuggests that 87 per cent of consumers use more than one device at a time while watching TV, with 57 per cent using smartphones.

That is increasingly the case with younger generations, and as Sarah Treliving, head of digital at MediaCom, says: “This, combined with the competitiveness and limited supply of TV media, means that advertisers and publishers are having to develop new technologies to ensure they’re getting their messages across in the most effective and engaging way.”

Instant responses

As advertisers seek to address this, the use of second-screen advertising synchronisation is growing rapidly. Typically, ad syncing uses listening technology to identify when an advert has run on TV or radio, prompting the immediate delivery of complementary messages online to run simultaneously on digital devices. The technology can also be used to monitor – and trigger instant responses to – other keywords, such as in weather forecasts, news reports, ads for complementary products or even rival firms’ advertising slots. This provides a powerful and agile way to engage and create a dialogue with customers.

The technology offerings delivered by companies such as MediaCom, wywy, Civolution, Mediasynced and Infectious Media provides a solution to an increasingly complex landscape for advertisers, with traditional TV viewing habits in decline. Viewership of long-form TV and movie content on a TV screen has declined by 13 per cent globally over the past year, according to Accenture’s research.

“TV viewing behaviour has changed dramatically as viewers use a second screen device to explore the internet while watching programmes,” says Andreas Schroeter, COO and co-founder of wywy. “On one hand, this is bad news for advertisers ­­–­ as people pay less attention to the ads, so brands need to recapture eyeballs with synced digital ads served on a mobile device. On the other hand, it is a huge opportunity because other viewers are willing to immediately engage with brands via their second screen.”

“Ad syncing technology can bring back the attention of the consumer and expand the reach of TV campaigns,” says Mark van de Crommert, CEO of Mediasynced. “It recognises which commercial is being aired and can launch the matching digital campaign at the exact same time – within milliseconds – all over the internet.

“Based on data, you can time, manage and optimise your digital campaign with basically anything. We say: ‘If it's got data, it’s syncable.’ Advertisers need to determine their ‘moments that matter’ – and we can then target them.”

Research firm Millward Brown expects more advertisers to take advantage of this technology, and has predicted rapid growth this year and beyond: “Second-screen syncing isn't just about media efficiency and hitting consumers with multiple messages, it’s also a new storytelling opportunity that allows brands to add extra value for people who have just watched their TV spot,” says Duncan Southgate, global brand director, digital at Millward Brown.


Synchronised adverts on a second-screen device can develop a dialogue with the customer, extending the story online or offering a tangible follow-up – such as a trial or offer. Car makers Nissan and Hyundai, for example, have both employed second-device ad syncing with wywy to reinforce car launch campaigns, while, among its successful deployments, Infectious Media used digital ad synchronisation as part of retailer John Lewis’s innovative Christmas 2014 campaign.

The appeal of ad syncing isn’t limited to particular sectors. The companies pioneering it boast a diverse portfolio of clients – from finance, manufacturing, travel and automotive, to retail, entertainment media and telecoms. “We are seeing a wide range of customers using it,” says Infectious Media CTO Dan de Sybel. “Typically, the main driver is whether the customer (or their competitors) have a lot of TV advertising.”

“Timing your campaign makes all the difference,” says van de Crommert. “By choosing the right moment, you add relevance to your message. You can even adapt your message to the right moment. Our technology enables brands to adapt their digital campaign in real-time; if you are running a campaign, and an offline event has influence (like the weather) you can adapt – in real-time – your pacing, or the message itself. And it can be all automated.”


It’s still early days for ad syncing, but already its effectiveness is apparent. As the technology develops, and the use of data becomes even more refined, opportunities for simultaneous cross-media advertising will only grow. “The future of advertising is all about telling a seamless story across screens,” says wywy’s Schroeter. “Brands need to capture the attention of the user at the right time, with the right story that is contextually relevant to them. Technology-wise, this means better, more personalised targeting by incorporating other data sources – for example, set-top box data, CRM data – then, as a next step, brands will start serving the TV ads themselves programmatically.”

MediaCom’s Treliving says: “We are already dynamically syncing radio and digital outdoor advertising as well as TV and online. We’re also using facial recognition technology to detect when someone is smiling while looking at the screen. I believe this is an area that will continue to grow, as we discover more triggers and more media in which to execute.”

Thomas Brown Former Director, Strategy and Marketing CIM
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