Nearly half of smartphone owners (48%) and well over three quarters of tablet owners (80%) regularly use their devices whilst watching TV (InMobile and Mobext 2012).
These figures are considerable and even worrying to some brand owners. Yet it is easy to forget that television viewers have always given themselves to different tasks whilst the television is on, from going out to the kitchen to make a cup of tea during the ad break, to talking on the phone or even grannies doing the knitting whilst watching Coronation Street.
Unlike these activities, additional screen behaviours provide brands with further opportunities to create engagements with people. One of these is around facilitating complementary behaviours. Just over one fifth (22%) of simultaneous usage is complementary to the TV content or ads being shown (Google 2012), and up to 40% of tweets in the UK during peak TV times are about TV (Second Sync/Twitter 2013).
Still, this one fifth of simultaneous usage leaves a considerable amount of multiple screen activities unrelated to content on the TV. Yet rather than seeing this as a threat to advertising brands, brand owners should grasp the opportunity to provide compelling reasons for these people to talk about them and undertake advocacy, enquiry and purchase behaviours.
To do this, brand owners need to understand and facilitate people’s motives for doing complementary activities. These include interacting with or influencing content, seeking additional information about content and ads, wanting to analyse content further, and connecting with other viewers (Google 2012).
In terms of enquiry, online search is an obvious activity. During September 2012, SMG, London, ran a TV ad for a client, that included a search based call to action. The following chart shows the spike in the search term during the ad. Interestingly, over half of all searches came from mobile.
Twitter is a key medium some people use for discussing content. By adding social elements to TV ads, brand owners are able to stimulate people to discuss ads online, steer conversations, and quantitatively measure interactions.
One of the key challenges Twitter throws up is around how likely is your content to lead to conversations? Twitter underscores the demand that brands and advertisers create relevant and meaningful TV content that people therefore want to talk about. For this reason, Twitter is one tool advertisers should use for gauging the currency of their content (caveats around Twitter users accepted). If you look at your TV content and think a Twitter hash tag isn’t justified, or if you use a hashtag that results in few uses, it is more likely that you need to rethink that content rather than rethink Twitter. Unfortunately however, when some brands have seen very little use of their hashtags on Twitter, they have either dismissed Twitter or said that it is only useful for particular brands or brand categories.
Another mistake is when brands have attached a Twitter hashtag to an ad almost as an afterthought, without really thinking about what they want to achieve. On the other hand, brands that have developed a strategy behind using Twitter are more likely to achieve success. For example, Audi has achieved high engagement through the hashtag #ProgressIs, which it has used in its ads since the Super Bowl 2011. By encouraging people to complete the slogan, it underlies the value of having a call to action that people find compelling.
Mercedes created deeper engagement by asking viewers to vote for the next stage of a TV ad storyline on Twitter. The brand saw a greater lift in brand metrics compared with a similar Mercedes ad that had no voting interaction – up to 44% higher (ITV and Essential Research 2012). Strategically placing the ad during X-Factor - in which people vote for contestants - drew upon people’s already existing frame of mind for participation in a social event.
An argument to come from some brands is that Twitter users don’t currently form part of their target market, and so they don’t use it. For example, average ages of premium car brand owners such as Audi and BMW are well over 40 years old, whereas Twitter users are on average much younger.
However, TV ads for considered brands such as cars are likely to be the first touch points for many Twitter users. With Twitter integrated into them, there is the chance that some people will start a longstanding relationship with a brand that will result in a purchase. Twitter integration into TV ads for such brands may also result in new aspirational fans who will become brand advocates. In such cases, it is important that brands use Twitter as one element in an ecology of touch points through which they continue to uncover the brand story.
For less considered brand categories such as food and household products, opportunities are most often around driving purchase. A soap powder brand’s sponsorship of The Only Way is Essex saw a higher purchase intent among people who tweeted about the show and who were exposed to the brand’s sponsored tweets, than people who were not exposed (ITV and Essential Research 2012).
Brands have also used TV ads to drive competitions on Twitter. During late March and into April, Argos ran a TV ad that was primarily about click and collect, but also incorporated a competition. People who used the hashtag #WinDadsCamera had a chance of winning a new camera.
Competitions such as these can be good at raising brand awareness. But although they may achieve headlines among marketers, they often do little to engage people in deeper interactions with the brand or to stimulate people to converse about it. In fact, our own social media research shows that running straightforward competitions like this is one of the lowest value actions a brand can do. A more engaging competition might have been for Argos to ask people to upload a badly taken photo to show why they need a new camera.
In summary, these are six recommendations about using Twitter on the back of TV ads:
- Use Twitter as a tool for gauging the currency of ad content to viewers
- Have a strongly developed strategy for integrating Twitter into TV ads. What do you want to achieve?
- Understand the characteristics and needs of your intended audience, and their motives for second screening
- Calls to action in ads should prompt conversations, interactions, or actions that require more involvement than mere re-tweeting
- Considered brands should see Twitter as an opportunity to engage people as part of a much longer purchase funnel than for less considered brands, and use Twitter help create aspirational brand advocates even among non-brand purchasers
- Use Twitter as one component among different media to tell connected brand stories
We originally wrote this article for Media Tel's Connected Consumer