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Is This The Fall TV Advertisers Tune In The Second Screen?

As more eyes move to TV-affiliated info and chatter on tablets and phones, Madison Avenue and Big TV prepare to chase

“The Bachleorette” has run on ABC – off and on – since 2003. And yet only in 2013 did Clorox decide to advertise in the show.

What brought the well-known bleach to the saucy reality series? An opportunity to reach consumers who may have been watching something other than the program while it was on.

Clorox recently took part in what Katie Keil, the product’s brand manager, calls an “experiment” to see how it might talk to TV viewers who are using smartphones, tablets and other types of screens at the same time they watch a favorite program, or to get more information about that show even when it’s not on the air. Such behavior, known in the media industry as “second screen” use or “co-viewing,” is fast coming into advertisers’ view as they seek to talk to potential customers who may be distracted by the prevalence of nearby mobile devices and the easy access they provide to social-media chatter, instant messaging, and similar digital cross-talk centered around the TV programs they love.

While advertisers have dipped their toes in these waters,  their steps toward “second screen” have seemed tentative. But a tipping point may emerge, perhaps,  during the coming fall TV season.

With more data available showing how second-screen efforts work and the TV networks placing more importance on device-enabled viewing activity, blue-chip advertisers are showing more interest. “I think we’re going to see a lot more of it” in the near future, said Michael Bologna, who studies emerging advertising formats at GroupM, a large advertising-investment firm owned by the United Kingdom’s WPP. “We are past our sophomore year, and we’re getting to be juniors and I still think there’s more to go,” said Marc DeBevoise, executive vice president and general manager of entertainment, sports and news at CBS Interactive.

Clorox’s New Reality

The new technology has the potential to shape advertisers’ traditional spending patterns. Clorox is normally not a big buyer of reality TV, said Keil, but the opportunity to test a young audience online proved alluring. “We are constantly trying to increase bleach’s relevance to young adults by reaching them where they are spending their time,” she said.

Over the course of six weeks, “Bachelorette” viewers were invited to vote on their 12 favorite “bleachable” – or most cringe-inducing – moments from the current season of the show. Viewers could cast ballots while the show was on the air on ABC.com or VIggle, one of an increasing number of “second-screen” apps for mobile devices. The companies used the effort to call attention to a Clorox TV commercial that ran while “Bachelorette” was on.

ABC and Clorox found 76% of those exposed to the two-screen promotion intended to purchase Clorox, results that were 91% higher than the norm for cleaning supplies, according to research from Insight Express, which surveyed viewers for the two entities. “You will continue to see a lot of new things from us in this space,:” said Pooja Midha, ABC’s senior vice president of digital ad sales and operations.

Other media companies and advertisers are testing out similar techniques. Last year, NBCUniversal purchased a stake in Zeebox, an app that lets users learn more about the shows they watch and the products seen in them, as well as reach out to other fans of their favorite programs. In November, NBCU unveiled a project that let American Express card holders get money back when they used their cards to purchase products they learned about on Zeebox that might appeal to fans of programs like Bravo’s “Life After Top Chef,” E!’s “Fashion Police” and Style’s “Tia & Tamara.”

American Express took the idea a step further by backing an effort with Fox that allowed viewers of the network’s iPad app to shop while watching “New Girl.” Each week, the show would feature at least one item – a piece of jewelry or a salt-and-pepper shaker, perhaps – that viewers might purchase. One recent AT&T method of sponsoring  the network’s “American Idol” is through an app for smartphones and tablets that requires users to sign in using their Facebook accounts so they can “supervote.” or cast multiple votes for contestants at once.

CBS has sold ads around “synced” experiences to Target, Microsoft and Procter & Gamble involving its Grammys telecast, said CBS Interactive’s DeBevoise. Target and Microsoft are expected to return, he said. Chrysler’s Dodge sponsored a second-screen effort around the Academy of Country Music Awards.

Feeding Twitter

Just last week, Viacom and Twitter joined to sell video advertising surrounding tweets about MTV’s Video Music Awards , the“Comedy Central Roast of James Franco” and, “more than 30 different programming events and shows through the end of 2014,” the companies said in a press statement.  Fox unveiled a similar idea in May, when it said it would place  clips of upcoming TV shows and live events on Twitter as well as video snippets of episodes after they air and give marketers the chance to wrap their ads around the content by talking about it to Twitter users.

The media companies and marketers are simply chasing their customers. In a report released earlier this month, Forrester forecast 905 million people would use tablets by 2017, up from just 15 million users in 2010. And market-research firm eMarketer expects digital media consumption to rise 15.8% in 2013, while daily TV time slips slightly or remains flat. The firm estimates the average adult will spend over 5 hours per day online, on non-voice mobile activities or with other digital media this year, compared to 4 hours and 31 minutes watching television.

As TV networks launch new programs that should strike a chord among digitally  and social-media savvy viewers – think NBC’s “Dracula” or ABC’s “Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” – they have moved more quickly to work with the start-ups who got into second-screen activity more quickly, which should prove more attractive to sponsors.  “If you’re going to have an interactive television show, then the technologies and the program should operate as one,” said GroupM’s Bologna.

The TV networks’ participation is key: It’s their TV shows – and fans’ intense interest in them – that are the hooks for the entire strategy. And it’s also those TV shows that attract the audiences of millions that advertisers need to sell hamburgers, sneakers and electronic gadgets in an efficient manner.  At the same time, the networks have to be cognizant of the fact that their audiences are dispersing along the electronic ether, and that they need to do something to lasso them back. “We’re starting to see that certain television networks are getting their arms around the value of second-screen extensions to the programs they create,” said Kevin Arrix, Viggle’s chief revenue officer.

The new TV season may be more closely watched by Madison Avenue to see if it brings in not only a substantial number of “first-screen” aficionados, but also a significant amount of “second-screen” escapades. “Our belief is that advertising will come when scale is there,“ said CBS Interactive’s DeBevoise. “I think this is a good year, a good test season, when maybe some of these things achieve some scale:”

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