15 Oct 13Drew Heatley
Facebook and Twitter both see TV as a lucrative string to their bows. Much is made of consumers’ use of their smartphones and tablets while watching television, but harnessing that for financial gain remains largely study-based with little-to-no results forthcoming. Here’s why the pair’s battle for the small screen will ultimately prove fruitless and why the second screen crown is ultimately Google’s for the taking.
1. It Is Tough To Quantify Conversation
There’s no doubt consumers like to take to social media while watching TV. The figures are there: 32m Twitter users in the US tweeted while watching TV last year and even more post on Facebook – between 88m and 100m in fact. But what does this mean? Official TV ratings have rated the popularity of TV programming for decades and as such provided a ranking of the most attractive content for advertisers to place campaigns against. But while knowing what consumers are discussing what programme at a given time and where is interesting, it is difficult to quantify that data and convert it into dollars.
Facebook, nonetheless, is offering that data to broadcast partners and advertisers in its first steps toward aping Twitter and bridging the gap between TV and consumers’ devices. Meanwhile, Twitter, the more established of the pair in the space, has launched Amplify, its ad platform designed to enable advertisers to sync their promoted tweets, trends and accounts with their traditional TV ad campaigns. It also enables broadcasters to offer video content within tweets with pre-roll ads. But with Amplify still in the embryonic stages, there’s no way of knowing how successful it is. Any progress made will be revealed during the firm’s first post-IPO quarterly earnings.
2. Content, Not Noise, Is The Answer
The latter feature could well be the dark horse. Consumers want supplementary content, not additional noise. The traditional 30-second TV ad slot remains the most lucrative by a long shot and combining that with an additional blast through Twitter would, in theory, provide double the impact. But today’s consumer wants a la carte viewing, with online video consumption soaring, they are unlikely to wait around during the ad break unless they’re given a reason to.
Value-added additional content provides the bait to keep them in their seats with their devices in their hands. Brands must now earn consumers' attention and the second screen provides a platform for them to do this. But it won’t be achieved by simply replicating or syncing ads between TV and tablet. Brands must engage consumers. As Havas exec Jason Jercinovic sums up: “Marketing is no longer about interrupting consumers, but enabling them to engage around something that is relevant.”
3. Ultimately, It’s All About Search For Consumers
While it is natural in the social age to want to talk to friends and like-minded people while watching TV, less than a fifth actually admit to doing so. While that figure will no doubt increase as smartphone and tablet adoption continues to grow, the largest opportunity in second-screening lies in an area that could blow both Twitter and Facebook out of the water – search. The move, of course, plays right into Google’s hands, despite its continuously lacklustre progress in social. More than 40% of consumer search online for information about the programme they are watching on their mobile device while watching TV, according to a report from HUB Research. That is streets ahead of the 18% that says they text or email others and the 17% that access Facebook or Twitter.
Search dominates online ad spend and that position has transferred to mobile. The format will account for USD4.3bn of 51% of all online ad spend in the US this year, according to eMarketer. That percentage is even higher at 61% in the UK, according to the IAB’s review of online ad spend during the first half of 2013. Google just needs to enable businesses to better place their offerings amid relevant results during a programme. It’s certainly a threat to Facebook and Twitter’s recent moves and indicates that the future of social TV may just lie with the world’s largest digital advertiser.
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