Chances are you are reading this post on your tablet or smartphone while catching up on the final season of Mad Men, watching the latest Modern Family episode, or rooting for the Rangers in the Stanley Cup playoffs.  According to research, over half of Americans use a second screen such as a laptop, desktop, tablet or smartphone while watching television.[1]

Screen-stacking is another step in the evolution of how households consume media.  The explosion of smartphones and tablets is not just challenging the TV for screen-time, but they are changing how audiences interact with their TV.  This offers both significant challenges and tremendous opportunities for advertisers looking to connect with audiences.

There is no question, screen-stacking distracts consumers from their TV screen and leads to less engagement with what they are viewing.  Research identifies general browsing, web searching, and shopping as the main activities of second-screeners.  The NFL noted recently that 60%-70% of fans use another device while watching a game (guilty as charged!).  Even live sporting events – the most bulletproof of traditional TV – are competing for people’s attention.

Yet, second-screens can also be a powerful tool to connect people to what they are watching on the TV screen.  According to the 2014 Nielsen Digital Consumer Report[2], viewers often use their second-screen to interact with what they are seeing on their TV screens.  That’s transforming watching TV from a passive entertainment experience to a more fully interactive experience.  According to Nielsen, viewers report using their second-screens to:

  • Look up info on actors, plotlines, athletes (41% tablet / 29% smartphone)
  • Email/text friends about the program (23% tablet / 29% smartphone)
  • Read discussions about TV programs on social media sites (18% tablet / 12% smartphone)
  • Buy a product being advertised (14% tablet / 7% smartphone)
  • Vote or send a comment to a live program (12% tablet / 9% smartphone)

How can marketers leverage screen-stacking to deliver messaging?  A recent TNS report [3] identified four types of second-screeners and offered helpful hints on how to connect with these consumers:

  • Leaders – screen stack to stay connected. Use them to engage with and promote your brand.
  • Observers – screen stack to digest as much information as possible. Ensure they have enough information about your brand.
  • Connectors – see social media as the Internet and draw their information from those platforms. Capture their attention and get them talking.
  • Functionals – still “watch TV” and least likely to stack. Your brand comes from traditional TV messaging.

Heading into 2016, look for smart campaigns to harness the power of the second screen to engage target audiences and expand information about a candidate’s background or issue positions. With more messages than a traditional 30 second ad, second screens create conversations that connect supporters, generate excitement, and engage activists.

Now, back to the game.

[1] Source:  TNS 7/2014




Public Opinion Strategies