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‘No one’s cracked it yet, we’re just at the beginning': Admonsters panel on second-screen evolution and why so few brands are getting it right

There is still some way to go before brands, advertisers and broadcasters fully harness the potential of second screening, according to a panel of industry experts assembled for the Admonsters Screens conference.

Before discussing the brands attempting to navigate the area and the commercial opportunities second screening offers, the panel – comprising Bill Scott,CEO at Easel TV; Ilicco Elia, head of mobile for DigitasLBi; Paul Lyonette, UK general manager at YuMe, and Julian Smith head of strategy and innovation at Fetch – was first asked to define the term, something which proved trickier than anticipated.

Smith suggested that at the moment “we’re defining the term as this idea of sitting in the living room with a second screen, whether it be a smartphone or tablet.” But, he said, “I think the term second screen will soon be dropped and replaced with the much broader multi-screen.”

This view was, in part, shared by Lyonette who said he “genuinely believes that the second screen doesn’t really exist on many occasions, as surely your attention is only ever on one screen.”

However he did concede that “the only time there is a ‘second-screen’ is when someone tells you from one screen to look at something else [on another] to get something different but associated with the content you were just looking at.” In other words, connected second screening.

Meanwhile Elia referenced the presentation made earlier in the day by Twitter’s Oliver Snoddy, and said that second screening “really depends on the type of programming. Mobile maybe be your first screen during the X-Factor but will be a second screen during Downton Abbey, for example.”

Simply determining what a television screen is today proved problematic. Is it dependent on the size of the screen, or the type of content being watched on it? Indeed, as consumption habits continue to change Elia mused that after his TV aerial broke his tablet became his primary device for watching TV,

So, with the exact definition of second screening in the midst of evolution, there was no surprise in the panel struggling to name brands getting it right with Elia bluntly saying that, in fact, “no one has cracked it yet.”

“Apologies to people who probably think they have, but we’re just at the beginning of understanding what people do,” he explained. “What I do when I’m watching TV is just talk to my friends at the moment; there is nothing that makes me want to engage.”

Scott suggested that, despite some glitches, the Formula One live-tracking app is navigating the second-screening space well. But he added, “what doesn’t work for me is when ads get Shazamed.”

As the room nodded in agreement, he continued, “I can never get my phone out and get the thing listening before the next ad comes up.”

Lyonette offered further explanation, saying: “Shazam demonstrates the technology being right but the nuances of how it actually works are more difficult. Red Button TV is very similar to a Shazamable ad, and it didn’t take off. For me the fact that you have to do a lot of stuff, like download the app for example, prevents there being any sort of scale in second screening.”

Similarly, Smith said the problem with Shazam is that you’re never ready, the communication simply isn’t there. For him, the most potential at the moment lies in live sport and live reality TV.

The session moved on to a discussion on the best way for brands to commercialise this growing sector. Throughout the panel, the consensus was that understanding the consumer context, and offering a seamless connection between on-air and online, was key.

“If you do your broadcast advertising and that’s completely separated from your app, and there’s no way to drive consumers from one to the other then it’s all fairly hopeless,” said Smith.

“But if you’ve got one multi-screen proposition that’s working together and allows you to use the right device for the right purpose at the right time, both as a consumer and an advertisers, then that’s the way to commercialise it.”

Their comments followed Twitter head of planning Oliver Snoddy, who urged brands to take better advantage of social TV opportunities.

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