How advertisers can use social TV to their benefit

How advertisers can use social TV to their benefit

A world-first neuro study has served up some interesting facts on social media interaction and the first screen, writes Sebastian Rennie. The most important impact will be on when and how advertisers manage their in-program messaging.

Australians, like everyone else in the world, are watching more screens, more often and in more places. The concept of the second screen, or even multi-screening – engaging with more than one screen simultaneously – has been around for some time now.

Nielsen statistics show that the percentage of Aussies participating in multi-screening has been relatively static at 60% for the past five years. Conventional thinking, within and from outside the industry, assumes that if viewers are spreading their attention across more than one device, then TV must be suffering. According to such thinking, the second screen must be distracting viewers, resulting in diminished levels of engagement – a concern for both broadcasters and advertisers.

Eager to answer these concerns with some empirical data, MEC partnered with the Seven Network and Neuro-Insight to undertake a neurological study of social TV viewers and their live social interaction between the first and second screen. Good news – the study shows that social TV viewers’ engagement levels rise.

But first, here is an explanation on how we conducted the study. We recruited four different groups of social TV viewers and invited them to the Neuro-Insight lab. These participants watched a live broadcast of the Seven Network’s reality show X-Factor, while wearing equipment to measure their neurological activity. We left them to their own devices as they watched the broadcast and interacted on social media.

Neuro-Insight developed a bespoke methodology and technology for this task, enabling us to contrast the different behavioural states to measure the neurological change before, during and after social interaction.

Our goal in conducting this world-first study was to determine whether social TV is a threat or an opportunity for broadcasters and advertisers. With millions being spent annually on TV sponsorships, clarity around viewer engagement is crucial for both parties.

The study highlighted the rise and fall of the participants’ engagement levels as they interacted with the first and second screen. Of the 153 social interactions measured, there were on average four tweets per participant, with a high of 14 and a low of two.

The results challenge the conventional wisdom that second-screen usage during TV viewing negatively impacts audience engagement. In fact, by the end of the 30-minute show (and a number of second screen interactions), the cumulative engagement levels of the participants had increased on average by 23%.

The results offer some guidance to broadcasters and those advertisers integrated into a program. Producers can introduce triggers to involve social TV viewers earlier in the program, while brands that are fully integrated in a TV show can capitalise on the higher intensity of engagement, improving the effectiveness of their marketing investment.

Even more relevant to advertisers was the discovery of two memory states in the minds of viewers. The first is a “global memory”, where people store imagery, jingles and brands. The second is the “detailed memory”, where more detailed information around products, price points, website addresses and the like is stored.

After social media interaction, people’s detailed memory is higher than their global memory – this usually occurs towards the end of a TV show. That means social TV viewers are more likely to pay attention to and retain details on products and special offers than the average TV viewer.

This represents a powerful new piece of intelligence in the ongoing battle to improve advertising effectiveness. Advertisers can use this knowledge to improve the effectiveness of their program sponsorships and integrated advertising deals.

For example, they should serve up brand messages at the beginning of a TV program, when viewers’ global memory is more receptive, and push product specifics, price points, promotions and offers towards the end of the program when the detailed memory kicks in to better exploit viewers’ heightened receptivity to details.

Multiscreen usage is only likely to increase in the future, so this discovery comes at the right time to enable advertisers and their media agencies to manage the timing and content of their messaging during a TV program.

The results are certainly positive, but just because we are seeing engagement levels rise with social TV (with an average of four interactions over 30 minutes) there isn’t going to be a linear increase in engagement as the social interactions increase. In extreme cases, where viewers turn to social media every couple of minutes, I doubt they would be paying an awful lot of attention to the program.

Seb Rennie
BY Seb Rennie ON 9 May 2013
Sebastion Rennie is chief investment officer at MEC. After starting his career in advertising in London, Seb moved to Sydney with a couple of mates and took a role at the newly-formed OMD. Seven years later he moved to MediaCom, and then MEC, where he climbed the ranks to where he now sites on the management team.