On Pattern building and Native Advertising: Why “Second Screening” could be good game between consumers and brands

One morning I was enjoying my usual little hour of serendipity, reading about sparse subjects and trying to find plausible connections. So I came across a few articles/posts, one from WARC, re “device switching” and a couple from the very Mr. Bob Hoffman, i.e. The Adcontrarian, re “TV vs. Digital”. Today’s post is partly the result of my personal reflections on how digital integrates (or not) with traditional media, how life and consumerism are changing, how disparate pieces of info (news, personal memories, notions from textbooks, gut judgement) may come together in one pattern, a new insight. Partly it is the result of having too much time in my hand maybe…

Let’s start with Mr. Hoffman. For the best part of last year he has been quoting several sources (Adweek/Simulmedia,  Nielsen and others), to prove that TV is still THE media to deal with and that most digital  “impressions” are the fake products of a bot. Fantastic stuff, being already in my 40s and having used digital since 2001 (to integrate DM, Events and even ATL), I never bought into the digital hype. Still, I AM NOT sure the story ends there, I KNOW it from other readings and I FEEL it from the pit of my stomach. If we leave aside the joyous onanism of the last few years, and the rude awakening of the last few months, Digital (if used in connection to a sane business spirit) really is about multiplying possibilities for interaction whenever/wherever. So, what’s the story about having all sorts of digital gadgets always connected and always at reach?

The WARC article on device switching (see link above for detailed figures): We can find a number of sensible measurements there. People switch all the time from smartphones to TV to laptop to tablets, in various directions, degrees and numbers. All those “how many” eventually leading to two very prudent but acceptable generic conclusions: 1) People do switch devices-my summary-and,  2) “It (is) important for marketers to ensure a consistent brand experience that would allow people to pick up their activity as they moved between devices” (verbatim).

Bingo! That got me thinking. Yes, many of the digital fundamentalists are either naïve, outright incompetent or very very cunning self-promoters, and yes facts suggest that TV is still king. However, the reasoning may well get further. So:

1) What if we connected Adcontrarian’s facts on TV vs. digital media to WARC’s considerations?  We may come to a first set of additional reflections:

a) most TV shows or ads today prompt us, or rather beg us, to do something (voting, polling or simply drivelling) via FB, Twitter etc.

b) many of us happily do that, be that for some fraction of our time, be that just because we have those new, handy, little, flashy toys at hand.

c) a)+b)= you have a form of “second screening”, popular even in Spain and across generations, according to other measurements and my own sober observations. In a way it is artificially induced behaviour and a “cheap” exchange of social currency based on having the second screen there but let’s not dismiss it so quickly just now.

2) What if we looked at second screening from other points of view, would we find more meaning to it?

a) A bit of Reader’s Digest anthropology/sociology (i.e. simple but useful): Even when we turn into Homer Simpson in our sofas, part-time we are still the curious animals who love to touch and smell, i.e. to live what’s before, around and after things that really catch our attention. And usually we love to share that with our fellow apes. It is called interactivity, with people and things and in time. Long before the current digital hangover.

b) Technology: In recent years, Sky has been testing a number of interactive services, around football games for example. Even before, Teletext with its hideous Atari-like interface, was trying to add “real-time” and services to TV. Dependency on the “TV-and-remote” pattern, made the whole deal quite basic and limited in options.

c) Now a bit of Proust: Talking about music (but it could be sports, DIY, your favourite chocolate bar) in the 1980s: In the early 1980s when U2 sounded great, a Sicilian teenager listening to “Stories for boys” on the radio had to go to the local indie shop, get the owner to give him a black and white fanzine with the address of their official fan-club in London (God, how did he get that??? real social currency). He had to take pen and paper in his fledging English, lick a few stamps and wait for their answer. Christmas Eve-like expectation stretching over a few weeks. Today it is called email, websites, Wikipedia, Shazam, YouTube, The IMDB, Yahoo Answers, forums etc. etc., right here, right now, your way. You may argue about instant gratification vs. rich experience and the pleasure of waiting. But good use of technology can offer you both and anything in between, it’s up to us really.

d) Good old marketing textbook: SIMPLE, CLASSIC concepts like brand building, product lifecycle (including extension), if not even cross-sell and up-sell?

Overall, what if we look at second screening from all those points of view now? TV and Digital Time converge and reinforce each other as two sides of “Our Own Experience” Time…and this could set the stage for a good game between consumers and brands.

Let’s get real and specific before you may think I am just another digital onanist in disguise:

Example from TV shows and football (with apologies to my female readers):… …Imagine you are a 50something (according to Mr. Adcontrarian the sweetspot for advertisers, and I agree), you still spend a good part of your free time watching a show on the box (well, the flat thingy). You now have always with you (an approximation, for reasoning’s sake) slick, powerful gadgets to interact with. Imagine you are watching an episode of “Cold Case”, a respectable example of a reasonably successful TV series. The episode is about a group of friends, now more or less successful and well-off.  The usual murder took place 20-30 years earlier when they were hippies who wanted to change the world. So you, the watcher, have lived some sort of similar metamorphosis (without killing anyone, I hope). Now, armed with this gadget and the related tools and websites, would you not search that Creedence Clearwater Revival song and possibly buy it (simplistic example, but you readers get my drift) and maybe share it with your college friends? Would you not look for that similar piece of furniture, shoes, etc. which has probably been re-styled and re-launched? So, what if our viewer had a repository (i.e. a simple database) of those things, within the “Cold Case” app/website, with the opportunity to find out more and “ultimately” to buy? Whatever topic/situation/object (today the smart ones call it “content”) that really relates to our interests needs, passions, would quite certainly drive that behaviour, be the viewer a 50something, a millennial or a teenager with a few quid in their pockets. Plus, this behaviour could happen before, during and after an episode; it may happen occasionally, in the case of an average viewer, it may do so repeatedly in the case of a fan. It may happen in the case of a single person, or more people in the same household or bar, group of connected friends

Another example, a bit less subtle and “one-shot” (so you understand it is possibly only one for the boys)…still very, very clever: What if you pushed to the smartphones of registered Barcelona’s fans an offer for Messi’s autographed Barcelona shirt at euro 49.99, right after he has scored the winning goal against Real Madrid in the Champions League final? (a wild fantasy these days but real, logical and brilliant example from Ogilvy’s Jordi Urbea) Overall, what matters the most is the opportunity for any viewer to make the most of their viewing experience, right then and there, or whenever/wherever they want it: to consume it just as it is or a trampoline to share it, expand it in all the directions they feel like. Or anything in between. Good for brands? If played properly, a wonderful way to: prepare the launch of a product, optimise it profitability, cross-sell and upsell the related portfolio, extend its lifecycle, make it a cult product after phasing out, doing “long tail”. Put it simply: building and delivering value and meaning in time.

Conclusions: All these considerations give a completely different light and meaning to the aseptic conclusions in the WARC article: “People do switch devices” and “It (is) important for marketers to ensure a consistent brand experience that would allow people to pick up their activity as they moved between devices”.

It is a world of interesting possibilities in terms of content and campaigns, for both audiences and advertisers. The engagement and identification created by the show/game creates an ideal context for a more fun, real and respectful way to relate to real people.

So it is an intelligent (and fun) way for both sides of the fence to keep the market alive. You can call it “sponsorship/product placement 2.0” (I would), if we want to be less ruthless I think this is more or less what the good people who came up with the term “Native Advertising” were really aiming at…

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