A lot of eyes are keeping a close watch on the launch of Zeebox at Channel 10 last week adding to the industry’s intense scrutiny and analysis of the impact of Social TV on networks and advertisers alike. That TV has rapidly become a social experience is no real surprise. It is simply a natural extension of the type of yelling at the TV screen we have been doing for decades and the earlier days of gathering around the only television in the street to watch the moon landings. The only difference is that we now have multiple TV sets in a single household and the technology to yell to a much wider audience (than mom and dad) and in doing so we can invite the whole world to watch and discuss seminal (as well as purile, if you’re into reality TV) events with us.


Sound silly? Well, according to the most recent Nielsen Australian Online Consumer Report approximately 60% of Australians are multi-tasking with their computer, tablet and smartphones whilst watching TV, and an increasing amount are using it to engage in social media discussions and look up and download related content, products and services with second screen usage spiking in prime-time viewing hours.  This is not a local anomaly, but a global trend backed up by the GfK MRI iPANEL showing 63% of US tablet owners use them whilst watching TV.  As Christmas is around the corner there will be a fair few tablet devices on Santa lists over the coming weeks meaning this behaviour will only grow.


It is a given that this wholesale change in consumer behaviour is diluting attention away from the traditional TV spot. The 30 second self-contained narrative is already long gone and increasingly serves as a teaser for a much deeper and personal brand experience. And we know that Social TV opens up a raft of creative possibilities that have the potential to significantly improve ROI as opportunities for individualised targeting, extension of brand messages and multiple touch points for consumer engagement abound. What is up for debate and leadership though is the specifics of how and the where brands leverage second screen activity to the best effect.


•      Firstly, there is nothing linear about consumer second screen usage. A recent Google study in the US showed that 90% of users moved from one device to another (i.e. tablet to PC) to complete a task. Complex user behaviour, but critically important in determining how we plan and evaluate tablet strategies as part of the overall screen mix, particularly for campaigns with a transactional call to action. Successful execution will require exceptional data analysis and insight in order to effectively follow the consumer and achieve conversion. It gives marketers the chance to more specifically target and connect more personally than ever before but also makes the fundamentals of putting the right message in front of the right person at the right time via the right medium a more involved process.


•      Secondly, there remains a plethora of platforms to navigate. We have already seen a number of brands experiment with big live events (think Olympics), linking e-commerce opportunities with TV (think ‘WatchwithEbay’ app),the gamification of adverts (think Expedia’s ‘Tag Me if you Can’ campaign), the extension of the 30 second ad to long form creative (think Coke’s Polar Bear spot during the Superbowl), sponsoring second screen bonus content across mediums (think X-Factor US and Australia) and encouraging immediate and real time dialogue across multi-screen apps (think Oscars). But with consumers spread across FANGO (Seven), JUMP IN (Nine), FOXTEL apps, Facebook, Twitter and more the audience is a fragmented one. Consumer choice is one thing but experience tends to dictate that perhaps as in the cheesy 80s movie, Highlander – ‘There can be only one’. Zeebox certainly seem to be banking on it with their rapid global expansion and focus on ‘agnosticism’ but we will have to sit back for a little while and see how it plays out, given the head start local players such as Fango have. Whilst still quite rightly fiercely competitive, it would be quite nice if the TV industry were able to work on something collaboratively together as opposed to trying to do everything themselves, outdo each other and end up simply annoying/confusing consumers. Given its called social TV, it seems someone anti-social to the end user of the platform(s)! If not through collaboration there already seems to be signs of consolidation in the US with Viggle’s US$25m (and 48m shares!) acquisition of GetGlue,


•      And as social engagement metrics become an increasingly important part of the TV mix, networks will also have to look at the value-chain. US studios have been using analytics firms to monitor the pre- and post-premiere social buzz as a way to measure viewer passion and to help them make critical scheduling decisions. It is no longer just about ratings, which means it will be no longer just about rate-cards. Companies like Nielsen, Bluefin Labs, Networked Insights, SocialGuide and Trendrr are racing to establish default metrics to find a way to demonstrate how engagement translates into cold hard cash. Logic dictates that lower ratings, but high social buzz could indicate a stronger relationship with viewers giving a heightened impact for advertisers across platforms; and this will require a shift in planning and pricing strategies.


What is already clear though is that Social TV has huge potential to both extend the 30 second spot and spark a renaissance in brand creativity whilst matching it with responsiveness – every aspect of ‘tweet’, ‘vote’ or ‘like’ is measurable. It is a nascent platform that means there is little to cut and paste, which thankfully always brings out the best in our industry for those with the smarts and creativity to best guide advertisers and take the category to the next level. As Frank Sinatra once said, “the best is yet to come”.


And, whether you like Frankie-Boy or not, that is definitely something to get excited about in 2013.

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