How TV Ads Can Be Optimized for the New Consumer: Part 1

changing role of television in a multi-screen world

Image courtesy of the study "The New Multi-screen World," created by Google, Ipsos, and Sterling Brands

I recently read an interesting study, commissioned by Google, entitled “The New Multi-screen World: Understanding Cross-platform Consumer Behavior” [PDF here]. The research topic was broad, and several interesting theses were put forward by the researchers.

A few quick points of background on the study for those who haven’t/won’t read it:

  • 1,611 participants in 3 major US cities
  • 7,955 hours of digital activities logged
  • Text diaries, in-home interviews, and surveys were employed
  • Google partnered with Sterling Brands and Ipsos on the study

There were a few points in particular that resonated with me and inspired this post. So, as I go forward with my ideas, keep in mind that I’m not going to cover or summarize the entire study’s contents.

The first is that living rooms in the United States are essentially “multi-screen” now, meaning that it’s not just a TV anymore. It’s a TV, a smartphone, and quite often a laptop or tablet on the coffee table. This has advantages and disadvantages for those who’re trying to make profits off of television, but I believe that the living room is an exciting new playground for multichannel marketers.

If you think about TV from the time it came out until it fragmented with the rise of Cable, you would have to agree that it was engrossing. We gladly gave it 100% of our attention, and we even used to watch the commercials! 😉

Now, the TV may be on, and it may be showing our favorite program, but it no longer gets 100% of our attention. We split our attention in the living room between multiple screens, especially smartphones and tablets. We multitask, just like we do elsewhere in our lives.

77% of study participants used other digital devices while watching TV! That’s a majority, folks. Of that percentage, 78% said they were multitasking (e.g. email or social networking) with the remaining participants doing “complementary” activities (e.g. searching for something they saw on TV, tweeting @ a show, etc.)

The silver lining to the “paying less attention to TV” problem for marketers is that TV has become more interactive. People now read blogs about their favorite shows, organize online protests when shows get cancelled, tweet about what they’re watching, research topics they discover on TV, use Shazam, and more. There are opportunities to get viewers to engage with brands and drive commerce that didn’t exist even 5 years ago.

Savvy multichannel marketers have the opportunity to influence that 78/22 ratio of multi-taskers to “complementary” surfers. By crafting the right kinds of commercials, marketers can encourage behavior that is complementary to either the program or the advertised brand, via engagement or even eCommerce.

But how can commercials evolve to do this?

First, commercials need to be designed with multichannel interactions in mind. I believe TV advertising is already headed in this direction, but every passing day leaves a LOT of money on the table.

I still see too many TV ads that shout a message at me in a one-way communication. They want me to remember a brand, a product, or a campaign message. The problem is that the “new consumer” doesn’t just run out the store and buy based on exposure to a commercial. Especially if it’s a big-ticket item like a car! We research, research, research before we buy, and we do it with a great deal of skepticism.

TV ads should be crafted under the following assumptions:

  • The prospect will be interested
  • The prospect will want to know more
  • The prospect will have objections that need to be overcome
  • The prospect will pick up another digital device (immediately) and try to engage with the subject of the ad
  • The prospect will be severely annoyed if the multichannel experience they attempt to have is awkward, difficult, or non-existent

Ads should have corresponding digital real estate ready and waiting for those who grab smartphones, tablets, or PCs in attempt to learn more or buy the product. Custom landing pages at vanity URLs, microsites properly indexed and optimized for campaign keywords, and apps ready for immediate download are all examples of good multichannel experiences that might have a TV ad as the “compelling event.”

Second, TV ads need to pick one of two desired follow-up interactions: engagement or commerce. These are obviously wildly different goals and interactions, so trying to blend the two or be vague about the desired action will backfire. Plus, I believe the goal of the campaign should determine which device the complementary digital experience is designed for (e.g. tablet-optimized vs. smartphone-optimized).

An example of a campaign with an engagement goal might want the prospect to download a mobile app to their smartphone or become a friend on Facebook. In this case, the target device for the campaign’s digital real estate would be smartphones.

An example of a campaign with a commerce goal might want the prospect to search using a keyword and land on a campaign landing page, or enter an online store to redeem a campaign-specific promotion code. In this case, the target device of the campaign’s digital real estate might be tablets.

Third, TV ads should have a digital Call to Action, either explicit or implicit. We’ve seen some examples of explicit digital calls to action that tell us to go online and visit a vanity URL, friend a brand on Facebook, or initiate a search. Remember when we used to be so dumb that we needed the “AOL keyword” to look something up?

In terms of implicit digital calls to action, some examples might be a picture of the website you’d like the prospect to visit, a Shazam icon on the screen, or a keyword phrase in quotes that would bring a prospect to a well designed landing page experience.

For part 2 of this article, I’m going to analyze and critique real-life TV ads to see how they do at engaging me (and my many devices) while I watch TV in my living room. Use the “Subscribe” options on the homepage of this blog to make sure you get notified about the next post! Yes…I’m being explicit 😉




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *