A couple things have come across my desk this week pertaining to almost the same thing. So I let them percolate in my brain for a bit until I was ready to tell you about it. Essentially, it’s sending content to a TV and a second screen at the same time. One pertains to content, the other to repurposing of TV ads. But I see a more cohesive and bigger picture emerging.

Second screen usage while watching TV has been growing as the install base for bigger smartphones and tablets has grown. Now a couple things are becoming apparent. First, the tablets and smartphone apps distract viewers from the ads. Not a terrible thing, unless of course you’re paying those millions to have your ad placed on certain TV shows. While it’s doubtful that many of our readers here are doing that, I thought that some of you might actually be placing ads on connected TV content and that is a whole different ball game.

Frank N. Magid Associates, Inc. recently put out a white paper titled, The Two-Screen Television Advertising Marketplace: Opportunities & Solutions For A Winning Consumer Experience. Whew that’s a mouthful, but it brought up some serious issues that are going to need to be addressed, like an open, standard protocol for simultaneous advertising on two screens.

…the need still exists for a common standardized platform that allows content creators and advertisers to efficiently manage and deliver the experience…

Opportunity Creates Proprietary

Oddly, this week also brought into my inbox a couple proprietary versions of services that are aiming to send ads to multiple platforms. But really, they’re just rehashing what has come before and aren’t looking into this whole, two screens at the same time thing that Magid is talking about and which I think will have a major impact, if the industry does it right.

Of course, the rise of numerous, proprietary formats is always what happens when an opportunity is discovered. But I have to agree with the Magid report, an unaffiliated, standarized, open system needs to be created before it’s too late and I think the IAB needs to get to work on it, ASAP. The longer it takes to create, the more potential I think will be lost.

Standardization Trumps Proprietary

Here’s further specifications from Magid:

To accomplish this, the industry will require an unaffiliated, standardized, open system which provides:

  • Synchronization of the television and advertising content with a second screen device
  • Incentives to engage on the second screen through awards
  • Organized social activity around the engagement experience
  • An accurate measurement and post-engagement tracking and reporting system

Hell yes I say!

In order for each and every one of these simulscreen offerings to be viable, advertisers will require a “buy once, reach all” clearinghouse that can provide placement and reporting standards, and serve the needs of all players in the space: advertisers, delivery platforms, networks, broadcasters, and MVPDs.

Let’s break down their requirements one by one and see why it is brilliant, and why many will hate it.


You know how you hate having fifteen different accounts to watch all your online video? Or how you hate having fifteen apps on your tablet for second screen experiences? Imagine the insane amount of redundant and unnecessary work that went into all of those apps, simply because the studios see each other as competition and therefore all feel the need to have their own app. Fine, have your own app, but what if the core of it, all the heavy lifting could and should be done by a standard, an open protocol and an agnostic system that doesn’t care about the OS or the content or anything, it simply delivers it in the right format, at the exact right moment.

At last count, there were over 100 venture-backed start-up companies that have launched some sort of capability or app that allows viewers to interact with linear TV content — from integrated TV screen experiences (single screen), to Check-In and social TV experiences, as well as rudimentary incentive/reward platforms.

With proprietary systems comes fragmentation and with fragmentation comes confusion for advertisers and content creators. Which one to go with, what the different systems can and can’t do, how they all differ, which is best? Questions that are nigh impossible to answer and shouldn’t even have to be, because a single, standardized, open system would solve it.


Remember when gamification was the buzzword and everyone was trying to squeeze it into their marketing vocab? All of it pretty much came to naught as far as I’m concerned, but we did get something out of the game craze, the belief that viewers and consumers need incentives.

So give them incentives. Here’s a great example of how not to go about it.

During Falling Skies on TNT they had a second screen app. During the commercial break, there was show trivia. But you didn’t get points, or prizes or even recognition. LAME. All it really did, was give me a reason not to look at the TV screen while the ads were playing. Not very smart on the part of TNT, I mean, if they’re going to do that, then their advertisers probably see it as them taking attention away from my ads. So, why would I want to advertise against that?

Incentives! Award the users with something that ties right into the advertisers, perhaps some products or points or something that first makes them want to engage with the second screen and second ties directly into the people who are paying the bills. Cohesive solution to the problem.

Organized Social Activity

Of vital importance is a cohesive and efficient experience. What they mean by ‘organized social activity’ is that the viewer needs to be immediately hooked into their current social circles. They don’t want to have to search this app or that to see which one their friends and family are using, they want them all to just be there. That’s the organized part of the social aspect which is the discussing, the banter, the interactions. Sports fans should be able to smack talk, show fans should be able to quote their favorite characters and they should all be able to do it with their social circles.

Now back to the Falling Skies example. I didn’t have the option to find my friends who were also watching, I didn’t get any rewards for answering the trivia questions correctly and generally it wasn’t all that much fun, so I switched to playing Angry Birds during the commercials.

If you’re going to have a fun social experience then you also need to play on the human need to compete, to brag and to win. That means if you’re going to do something like trivia, you need to make it a competition. Show people if they answered correctly, if they did so faster than their friends, real-time scoring lists so those with mutual friends can all see who answered when and how many points they got.

Boom, bragging rights.

Accurate Measurement

It’s the Holy Grail of online video….accurate measurements. We all know how much I dislike comScore’s definition of a video view, right? So if we’re going to do this, then we need to start from the very beginning on creating an accurate definition of each and every metric we want to follow. Those could include:

  • Engagement – How much time spent interacting with the second screen
  • Viewing time – A way to track actual viewing (perhaps with trivia questions about the current episode of a show…almost like a voluntary survey of attentiveness)
  • Favorability – Is the viewer enjoying the show, the content, the second screen content and experience?
  • Interactions – Is it a click, a question answer, a comment to a friend, a button push? If it is a game played on the second screen how much did they play?
  • Brand Awareness – Incentives offered by advertisers could easily turn into a gauge of brand awareness. The viewer might be inclined to use their reward points, etc. to receive product or something from your specific advertisers. You might even have them answer a simple “do you remember seeing these products or brands?” near the end of the show on the second screen.

On top of all that, with the interactivity of the experience advertisers could easily offer store locations, more information, URLs, newsletters, discounts and coupons, etc. This could all lead to conversion or higher purchase intent as well as higher brand awareness.

The keyword there is opt-in. If they played the game or want the rewards, they need to opt-in and that helps pool information (non-personally identifiable of course) about how effective the experience is at achieving the specific goal of the campaigns.

That’s a Wrap

Finally, I want to leave you with this great paragraph from Magid:

In order for the simulscreen advertising marketplace potential to be fully realized, all industry players will need to come together in recognition of a core set of standards that allow advertisers to make single creative/single-order arrangements for all their simulscreen experiences. Without this type of efficiency, simulscreen commercial media buys and experiences will tend to be one-off, more experimental efforts. These arrangements are fine in the early days of learning and refinement, but as lessons are learned and common practices are developed, the final step in completing this value chain will come from a set of accepted and adopted operational standards that all players can buy into.

Yes! However, if we look at history, it probably won’t happen. Or at least, it will be a long, drawn out, painful process until we get to a point where it is achieved. Usually, that’s a momentum killer and it ends up holding the industry back as a whole. So think about it, huh? Even if just half of the industry got together and worked on a single solution, it would out-perform any solution from a single provider. There’s already 100 or more companies out there trying to slice up the pie…which means less than 1% for each. But if a consortium of industry leaders were to band together and get something set up, and fast, and make it the best it can be, well… that could be 50% market share right there.

If not, it might just be yet another lost opportunity because of the tendency toward proprietary systems and fragmentation.

To Find out more, read the Frank N. Magid Associates, Inc. The Two-Screen Television Advertising Marketplace: Opportunities & Solutions For A Winning Consumer Experience.

Or check into the 100+ companies that are offering some facet of this all now…