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Multi-screening

What if the cinema experience was to accomodate the multi-screeners amongst us? I can see it working as long as you give punters a choice: “do you want to watch this movie with or without multi screen media?”

Hunter Walk

Update 8/5: Wrote a response to the unexpected interest & negativity to my proposal

Update 8/8: Thanks to actor Elijah Wood for explaining why he disagrees with this idea; also to Anil Dash who takes a broader look at the feedback this post has received in the context of cultural norms.

Update 8/10: Thanks to @mike_ftw for hosting an extended chat on his podcast Let’s Make Mistakes. 

In my 20s I went to a lot of movies. Now, not so much. Over the past two years becoming a parent has been the main cause but really my lack of interest in the theater experience started way before that. Some people dislike going to the movies because of price or crowds, but for me it was more of a lifestyle decision. Increasingly I wanted my media experiences plugged in and with the ability to multitask. Look up the cast…

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A couple of weeks ago, I touched on Coca Cola’s latest foray into social TV with its 2013 Super Bowl’s Mirage Big Game ad campaign. Although it did experience a few glitches on D Day, there is no doubt Mirage is one of the most sophisticated and successful social TV campaigns to date, having generated over 11 million fan engagements according to Coca Cola.

In a nutshell, the campaign starts with a TV ad that kicks off a story (the story of 3 teams competing for an iced Coke bottle in the middle of the desert). That story is in fact a game that unfolds over 3 stages (pre, during and post Super Bowl game), and plays out simultaneously across the small screen and the social Web, as TV viewers get to choose how the story ends by voting for their favourite team on the campaign site and the brand’s social media channels.

Before Coca Cola, Mercedes Benz used Twitter in a similar fashion in its UK #YOUDRIVE TV advertising campaign at the end of last year. The campaign let viewers choose the ending of a 3-part story on the new A Class model that played during commercial breaks in the “X Factor” show. According to research conducted by Twitter UK, Mercedes Benz and ITV, the integration of Twitter into the TV ads had a positive impact on the brand’s metrics and 71% of the tweets generated contained the campaign hashtags with 1 in 4 wanting to find out more about the car.

By combining dynamic story telling, gamification and social media interaction, both campaigns are great examples of TV ads linking to a social conversation – and back. Traditionally a passive consumption experience, they reinvent TV advertising by letting the audience take control of the content and viewing experience.

These campaigns are just two examples of how social TV works. There are plenty more as social TV tends to vary in complexity of the execution and may extend out beyond Twitter and Facebook to include advertiser-owned platforms.

At its most basic – the broadcast of tweets in real time during a TV programme is one of the most prevalent forms of social TV e.g. when the ABC’s TV programme Q&A takes questions and reactions live from TV viewers via Twitter back onto the small screen – a simple yet effective way of maximizing audience participation.

At the other end of the spectrum – we have companion apps such as Zeebox or Yahoo7! Fango that go a step further by centralizing all social conversations about one or multiple shows in one place, serving up related content in real time, and rewarding users for their loyalty with exclusive content or prizes.

Whichever way you go about social TV, the one common denominator and pre-requisite to its success is the brand’s ability to tell a compelling story that everyone wants to talk about. In other words, without cut-through content there is no social buzz, no social TV.

Why is social TV so much on the rise? (and here to stay.)

It leverages what has become second nature to most of us: our second screen behaviour. Or put simply, the fact that most TV viewers are using a second screen (tablet, mobile or desktop) whilst watching TV.

Which begs the question: what do they do on that second screen?

According to a recent Yahoo!7 survey into the viewing habits of Australians, 43% use social media whilst watching TV, with a large number of them posting on Facebook about what they are watching.

Twitter is the other big favourite destination for our TV-related banter to take place – so much so that it fully embraces TV as an integral part of its corporate future – why buy Bluefin Labs, a social TV analytics start up that tracks conversations about brands and TV shows, if for no other reason?

In other words, Facebook and Twitter have become the perfect companions to TV shows and ads. By enabling a shared viewing experience with friends, likeminded fans and viewers as well as 1:1 conversations with our favourite brands and shows, they have in essence redefined the home entertainment experience for most of us.

But are all brands equal in front of social TV?

At first, it appears not. A recent report reveals that Television shows are amongst the most liked Facebook pages, closely followed by Retail fashion and Food brands. This makes social TV an opportunity not to be missed for brands in these categories given their target audiences’ propensity to congregate in social forums.
However, thinking about it some more, it is not so much the category that is a driver in my opinion, but I would argue the brand’s ability to effectively use social media in the first place.
If the brand does a great job out of it i.e it has a clear, single-minded social media strategy and purpose (e.g. promote the overall business – ref. Shell, provide customer service – ref. US retailers, promote a lifestyle – ref. Red Bull etc.) and the resource behind it (talent and $$), then any brand can have a shot at social TV.

And how about measurement I hear you say?

As the TV viewing experience evolves to integrate social media platforms, measurement metrics for TV programmes and ads have to evolve too.

Audience reach can no longer be judged on traditional TV ratings only; new measurement metrics need to be introduced to capture user engagement across social media platforms and devices as the story plays out on the small screen and triggers conversations on the second screen (Nielsen US is ahead of the pack in that respect as it makes it its mission to devise new metrics for TV consumption).

All in all, I think social TV is brilliant news for advertisers, creative and media agencies alike.

Not only does it give TV as a medium greater accountability and further proof that the (costly) investment is worthwile, it also gives TV advertising and the TV viewing experience as a whole a new lease of life.

Last night, when I get home, I switch my TV and Mac on, tune into my Blog, Facebook and Twitter pages, have a quick browse on the Mac before continuing reading an article on the launch of the new Coke Zero campaign on my iPad also nearby (in fact never far). As I read on, a comment catches my attention as I seem to remember reading something similar a few months ago. I then pick a book, leaf through it and find the point I was looking for: “It’s the Coke spirit that makes Diet Coke different. For this reason, it’s the Coke, not the “Diet” part of the Coke that should be promoted.” states advertising legend Jean-Marie Dru. I go back to my iPad, satisfied that it is consistent: the reinterpretation of the “Zero” part stays true to the spirit of Coke – I like it. A quick glance at my TV, iPad now at my feet, I then grab my Mac to my right and start typing… this post as it suddenly strikes me how BAD I have become at multi-screening when I am home – hopping from one device or screen to the next and back – and all the while, with my TV still buzzing in the background struggling for my attention. And so I decide to research this behaviour a bit more…

First, there are 2 ways of multi-screening Google tells us – sequential and simultaneous. I find that I fall into the simultaneous usage / multi-tasking / unrelated activity category.

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I also discover that I belong to the 77% of viewers watching TV with another device in hand – one of the many stats Google give that show how mainstream multi-screening has become:

INFO

In other words, if you are a brand spending millions on a TVC with no or little presence on digital channels, you are not getting my full attention and your $$ are wasted on me. As multi screening makes more of us harder-to-catch, advertisers have to rethink their TV strategy and devise ways to continue (or start) the conversation on that second screen – be it a desktop, tablet or mobile (e.g. Commonwealth bank and ANZ advertising their mobile apps on TV is one way of doing this; chances are that punters will download their apps there and then). They must also give us the option to ”pick up where we left off” as we move from one device to the next (e.g. through offering the ability to save and retrieve a shopping list on all devices for example).

One final (pleasing) thought – slightly unrelated: as consumers, aren’t we lucky to have all these wonderful devices within reach and be able to search, interrogate, challenge the information that brands are feeding us in ways we couldn’t have dreamt before? Multi-screening makes us hard-to-catch but also more astute.

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