Battle for Second Screen Eyeballs Has Been Won by Social Media

second screens

By Daniel Lee, Strategy Director, Digital Natives

It’s been nipping at its heels for some time now but advertising can no longer silo social media, by delegating its running to junior employees. And nor should it want to. As a result of the increasing prioritisation of mobile devices as entertainment, social is key for catching consumers. In fact, while TV ad breaks are on, consumers are now turning to secondary devices, where social ads can capture their attention. This is something that traditional creative agencies who still hold TV ads in such high regard need to take note of; bite-size creative can still be culturally resonant, effective and inspired. “But what about the craft?,” they cry. Nonsense. Having a ‘social-first’ mindset doesn’t mean advertising loses its creativity. We’re not going to suggest abandoning TV for good, we just want to make sure brands are communicating with their audiences in a more targeted, experiential and memorable way. When second screens are used as a complementary rather than competing experience to TV, whole new doors are opened.

To be honest, consumers are a little all over the place nowadays when it comes to screentime, with research showing that users switch attention between screens around 27 times per hour. A 2021 study found a clear majority — 67% — use their mobile phones while watching television, with laptops and tablets further distracting consumers. Whether browsing the internet, using social media or gaming, second screens have become the norm in the way we consume entertainment, most particularly for younger demographics and during popular cultural events such as sports games, TV premieres and award shows.

So, how do we capture this divided interest and capitalise upon it?

There is not a one-size-fits-all approach and marketing orthodoxy still applies. However, that doesn’t mean that a social-first approach can’t be tackled strategically. Traditional strategic models use the 4Cs (consumer, category, company and culture). Alongside this, we add another C — “context”. The context and behaviour of our social content informs the social-first strategy, ensuring that it complements successful approaches, building upon them in a digital world.

We, of course, understand the importance of distinctive brand assets and we don’t want to mess around with them. Instead, we reinterpret them for the social feed so that they achieve relevance by looking native. Take KFC, who cleverly transformed their iconic Colonel into a CGI Instagram influencer, hashtagging his way across the globe in a tongue-in-cheek takeover of the KFC feed, while other fried chicken devotees can autotweet their appreciation of the KFC ASMR website. Culture has fragmented and in a world where everybody’s algorithm serves different content, we realise that we can’t achieve relevance with a singular piece of creative. We recommend serving multiple audiences with versions of your brand story in a way that enhances culture.

When this is achieved, second-screening doesn’t have to be a ‘war’; it can be an opportunity. Shoppable commerce, for example, has the power to smash traditional purchase journeys. It flattens the funnel, allowing brand and product advertising to become one and the same. It makes shopping a type of entertainment. Consumers are now purchasing things immediately via live streaming in sectors like premium and luxury, such as Ted Baker and Gucci, that would traditionally have been considered much rarer investments.

This year’s Super Bowl, too, capitalised on second-screening. Mailchimp’s #BigGameSmallAds campaign ran live commercial tweets promoting small and medium local businesses in conjecture with the big business ads on the TV. By recognising that Twitter is a huge part of cultural events such as the Super Bowl, Mailchimp caught the attention of phone users who jumped on social during breaks from the game.

Awareness of second-screening (there are 6 TV-related Tweets per second) allows us to more wisely budget and target our marketing approach. Rather than detracting from the big screen, a social-first focus can lead brands straight into the zeitgeist. TV ads are not going away but recognising that creative, culturally-relevant social ads hold mass appeal for the modern consumer can serve to engage interest and drive sales to a much higher level than using one form alone. Social is shoppable, it builds the brand and in a world of divided interest widens the net of who your consumer might be.

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