Harry Gardiner

Seeing Double – How To Win The Second Screen Revolution

20th May 2013 Content Marketing Blog, Social Media 10 minutes to read

Second ScreenThe way marketers catch our attention is changing. Technology has given us multiple devices with which we can communicate and interact with the internet and each other; this in turn has led to the world developing a second screen culture. So how can marketers take advantage of this trend?

In the not so distant future we’ll all travel in voice-controlled self-driving hover cars, programmed to take you along a pre-determined route. This will be mapped out via a series of blinks into our 3D printed contact lens-based super-smartphones. When we reach our destination we’ll control our television-computer-window hybrids with a few simple flicks of our hands.

We’ll all look like someone has thrown a handful of dust at our faces, and it will be awesome.


This is all merely wild speculation of course, but you never know. Technology has come in such vast leaps and bounds over the last 20 years that honestly predicting what’s coming next is less a precise art and more of an exciting gamble. Will smart watches actually take off? Will we actually be allowed to wear Google Glass anywhere? When will someone build me a real-life working lightsaber?

My point is (and bear with me, I promise there is a point), we’re in a golden age of advancement, where the possibilities of what we can create are practically limitless. People are now printing guns, custom toys and even body parts. Technology’s capabilities are fast catching up with our imaginations. The truth of the matter though, is that the future of technology, and with it the future of marketing (the two clearly forever entwined), lies in the very tools we use today.

Gadgets such as tablets and smartphones have seen a huge boom in usage over the last few years; with the tablet market exploding as other brands joined in on the craze last year, resulting in almost one tablet computer being sold every second here in the UK last Christmas.

Nowadays almost everybody is staring at some kind of screen whilst they carry out their daily lives, whether they are constantly checking their phone or browsing the net whilst watching TV. Late last year studies found that around 80% of people who own a smartphone or tablet use their device whilst watching television (Source: The Guardian).

Don’t think that marketers haven’t noticed this though. Our generation’s attention is divided amongst these many screens, and there are those that are looking to capitalise on this fact, hence the Second Screen Revolution.

Television is dead, Long Live Television

Multi-ScreenWhen I was just a little bit younger the only second screen I could have imagined using was my Game Boy Colour (playing Pokémon Blue, obviously; Blastoise was the boss), and before that if you wanted to look at something other than the TV you were either forced to read a book, go outside or stare longingly in the mirror contemplating life’s many virtues.

Now we have all kinds of connected devices with which we can interact and distract ourselves with; devices which allow us to browse the internet and share content with others at the touch of a button.

Exactly how people interact with more than one screen at a time is a phenomenon that’s been widely studied before, and honestly isn’t actually that new. In many ways second screen interaction is the hipster of the marketing word, it’s been around for a long time but now it’s become mainstream everybody wants a piece of the multi-screened cake.

Gone is the era when television was a passive experience, to be only watched and absorbed into our sponge-like brains. With a second screen enabled, watching TV becomes an interactive experience, one in which you can interact and share with your online peers. Remember when everyone crowded round each other’s houses to watch special events on the telly? Well, no nor do I to be honest, but apparently it did happen. With the power of a second screen, television has become social again.

Everything Is Better With Friends

The whole idea behind the second screen is that it enables your mobile/tablet/laptop to become a companion to your television (or whatever screen you’re actually using to watch TV), enhancing your viewing experience by providing content relative to whatever you’re watching.

The responsibility of delivering this content has fallen to platforms such as social media and applications. Storylines from popular soap operas can now be given new life and fleshed out fully online; brands can now deliver targeted advertisements beyond placid product placement.

If people see something they like on TV they tend to want to talk about; the practise of talking about last night’s episode of Hollyoaks around the water cooler still exists, only now that water cooler has evolved into worldwide social networks, where communication is instantaneous.

There are still forums out there with passionate fandoms devoted to individual programs, but these fandoms have now been made public (and acceptable) by the amount of people professing their opinions via social media. Whether they’re live-tweeting their reactions to an episode, moaning about a plot twist with a Facebook comment or posting their favourite scenes from the show on Tumblr in the form of GIFs; people can now exchange all the information (and express all the emotions) they need whilst still viewing the content.

There are of course plenty of apps which have been created purposely to conjoin peoples viewing habits and their social experiences. Applications like Get Glue and Zeebox are built around the idea of getting more out of TV. Users can view what’s on and ‘check in’ to shows they’re watching, sharing the information of their viewing habits with all their friends. These apps have crafted entirely new social networks based solely around film and television, and have thus become the perfect second screen companion to television.

We’re So Synergetic

One might worry that because it’s becoming so immersive, second screen content may distract users from what’s actually on the television in front of them. Could it be possible that second screen content is actually more distracting than useful?

In all honesty that depends entirely on the content on offer. It could be used to add extra depths to what you’re watching by presenting you with character information, clues, extra content and alternative viewing angles, much like the extras on a DVD or Blu-ray; like screen-in-screen content that’s not actually on your main screen.

Then again if executed poorly it come become nothing more than an unnecessary nuisance, splitting viewers attentions between trying to focus on a program and trying to get to grips with what’s going on in their other screen.

Nintendo’s Wii-U is one of the first major consoles to adopt this, with its main controller acting as a second screen. Some of the most innovative uses see the touch screen controller allowing the player to fully enjoy the game on their main screen whilst any additional details, such as the HUD, level map or inventory are displayed on the controller. Just like with all forms of content though, some uses of the Wii U’s second screen are remarkably better than others.

The key to successful second screen content is synergy. A seamless combination of what people view and what they do. The addition of a second screen means that the experience of watching a program stretches far beyond the regular confines of a single television set.  To paraphrase Shiv Singh, the Global Head of Digital at PepsiCo “In the future, television advertisements will be trailers into deeper branded digital experiences.” (Source: JWT Intelligence)

Multi-Screen Marketing

So what are the best examples of second screen marketing so far?

Notable instances include the supermarket giant Waitrose requesting that viewers use augmented reality app Blippar to access extra content whilst their adverts aired. During Christmas 2011 (see I told you this wasn’t a new thing) Waitrose broadcast an advert featuring two famous chefs (the legendary Delia Smith and that Heston Blooming-heck-what-the-huh-is-his-name-again guy) cooking up a couple of festive dishes. Viewers could download Blippar to their phone and point it at the screen when the advert came on. This would give them access to the recipes of the dishes they saw being prepared as well as interviews with the chefs about their Christmas cooking memories.

Not only is this a fantastic example of second screen content proving useful to the viewers, but it’s also a shining beacon of how brands can utilise second screens to extend their advertising experiences.

Obviously we can’t mention second screen content without mentioning Coca Cola’s strenuous efforts to make it work through the last two years Super Bowl (aka Social Bowl) games. Coke isn’t the only brand to have utilised this marketing method during the Super Bowl games, but they are one of the most memorable brands to have done so.

Coca Cola Polar BearI personally preferred 2012’s ‘Polar Bowl’ campaign, where viewers could use their second screen to watch two polar bears (one for each team) react to the game, adverts and half-time show streamed in real time. The videos were funny, entertaining and brilliantly planned. It attracted over double the amount of viewers than Coke expected, with the @CocaCola Twitter profile gaining a 12.5% increase is followers before the Super Bowl even started.

By all accounts this campaign was a great success. The same sadly cannot be said for their 2013 attempt, in which they ditched the artic for a much warmer dessert setting. Beginning their advertising well before the Super Bowl, Coca-Cola introduced viewers to three teams, who were all racing through the dessert to reach a prize (which was, bizarrely, a giant bottle of coke; (I mean how would you even reach the top to drink out of it?). The public could visit Coke’s website to vote on who they wanted to win and to sabotage the other racers.

The ‘Coke Chase’ campaign was an ambitious effort which drew in plenty of online traffic, but sadly it was reportedly plagued with issues, including on-the-night glitches and even accusations of racism.

As you can see, whether it’s used as a form of gamification, sponsorship or extended content, it’s easy to see the vast scope of possibilities available to brands.

A Bright Screen-Filled Future

I guess the only question that’s left to ask is, with all that’s come before, what can we possibly expect next? Will ‘second screen’ expand into triple or quadruple screen? Will second screen content help our Smart TVs learn our every move, and predict exactly what we want to watch? Should you expect to see rooms filled with interactive screens like those seen in the lairs of comic book bad guys? Probably not, but we can expect second screen content to become much more prevalent.

Second screen interactivity gives users the ability to communicate with the programmes they are watching. Imagine it, a referee wearing Google Glass could actually hear (or read) the criticisms directed towards him during a football match, directly from the people who are watching it. Live game shows could develop solely based around viewers interacting with contestants in order to help them answer questions in real time. Think ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’s’ ask the audience lifeline, only this time the audience are the actual viewers. There would be a lot of angry nonsensical content to sort through, and it would require a great deal of censorship (a necessary evil), but you get the idea.

Whether it’s being used to enhance your viewing pleasure or allow us to interact with programs socially, it can’t be denied that second screen content holds a wealth of potential. I for one am incredibly intrigued to see how brands will utilise that vast potential as technology progresses.

Let me know what you think the future holds for second screen content in the comments section below.

Until next time,
The Tallest Man in SEO

Image Credits:

Young Couple Watching TV courtesy of BigStock
Couple Watching Movie Screens courtesy of BigStock
Polar Bowl Campaign Advert courtesy of YouTube

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Harry Gardiner

At a statuesque 98ft tall (or 6ft 7”, whatever) Harry’s head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to social media. He’s also got mad DJ skills and is a lover of Pugs, bacon and if you tell him you haven’t seen a certain movie, he will make you watch it. You’ve been warned.

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