Digital Transformation

What does the second screen mean for brands? Former NMA editor Mike Nutley meets Zeebox

By Mike Nutley |

July 24, 2012 | 8 min read

Admonsters columnist Mike Nutley talks to Zeebox about what the emergence of the second screen means for brands and media owners.

Ernesto Schmitt is co-founder and CEO of social TV app company Zeebox. It launched in October last year and in January reported it had 250,000 users. In the same month it sold a 10% stake to BSkyB.

The first thing I asked Schmitt was what he thinks are the key opportunities and challenges for brands as screens start to proliferate.

ES: It’s an incredibly exciting time, but we’re clearly also at a turning point where buying media becomes more difficult. Previously all you needed to do was specify what kind of demographic you were trying to reach with what frequency, and your media agency would go off and buy 30 second ad campaigns for you and all you had to do was supply creative.

Now the opportunity is to synchronise that on the second screen with digital, targeted, personalised calls to action, where customers can engage with the brand and buy the product immediately, rather than having a long gap between seeing something on the first screen and taking action on it.

That means that you have to have multiple user- journeys that you specify on the second screen, because the same TV ad seen by three different people may require three different calls to action on the second screen, in the same way that you would target messages that you would deliver on Google AdWord buys, for example.

So it’s an immensely exciting time, because you’re getting rid of a lot of the wastage that currently exists with TV advertising, but it’s also the beginning of a more complex time for media buyers.

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MN: Clearly this means TV is moving beyond a world where reach and frequency are enough. How developed are we in terms of knowing what to measure and how to measure it?

ES: There are two elements to this. On one level, the language and technology of measurement already exists, because it’s really that of digital, in terms of impressions, user engagement, clicks and conversions; all of those already exist and you can apply them to synchronised digital ads that are triggered by analog ads that are delivered via the television screen.

What’s interesting is that alongside the technology comes a re-evaluation of what matters, because whereas a digital impression might be worth X, a synchronised ad might be worth Y, and I think an understanding of the exchange rate between the digital world and the analog world is what’ll be required here.

The more complex piece is that at the moment you have digital and analog TV advertising being bought by different teams within media agencies, and the two need to come together.

I foresee a future where you buy a campaign that comprises your 20 or 30 second spots on TV channels alongside second screen delivery as part of the same buy, as opposed to being done by a completely different team, because it’s the same medium, consumed across two screens.

MN: What does the industry need to put in place before we can start to take advantage of the opportunities offered by this new world?

ES: There are two things; the first is the separation of digital and TV buys, because that no longer makes sense in a world where digital and TV co-exist on several screens.

The second is the language of measurement coalescing around what the relevant measures are for the second screen, as opposed to borrowing wholesale from either the TV world – which is about reach and frequency – or from the digital world – which is about impressions and click-throughs – because the chances are that synchronised second screen ads follow a different logic of engagement.

But when you’ve overcome that, the reality is that consumers are already massively multi-screening. It’s not a niche phenomenon where we have to wait for years for it to become mainstream. And within very short order the second screen will become productised for the mass-market.

Sky is going to be building Zeebox into its own suite of applications and pushing it out to 11m households in the UK in September. At that point you’ve got an advertising medium that’s at scale.

MN: Do you foresee different challenges for different kinds of second screens; tablets versus smartphones for example?

ES: The form factor inherent in these different devices affects the execution, but the underlying use cases are always the same.

There are five of them. The first is about discovery - help me choose what to watch. Then when you’ve chosen what to watch, there are four deeper levels of engagement around content that’s delivered via the second screen. One is around social – see what your friends are watching and connect with them. One is around information – dive deeper into anything you see on screen. The next is about interactive participatory TV, such as play-alongs. And the last one is about commerce – people openly say they are stimulated by what they see on screen and they are frustrated by how long it takes them to take action.

So if you provide them instantly with an opportunity to engage with a brand or transact when they see something on screen in an advertisement, they’ll see that as a benefit rather than an intrusion. Those five use cases are delivered across whatever form factor the second screen is, but undoubtedly the iPad lends itself to one kind of execution, whereas the iPhone lends itself to a different one.

MN: What about journeys that start on a tablet or a smartphone then lead to TV? Are there examples of that?

ES: We’re working with a bunch of broadcasters who are looking to take feeds about how the audience is engaging with Zeebox around voting or play-along and bring that back to the first screen. I think you’ll find the screens increasingly intertwined.

At the moment an awful lot of the content that appears on the second screen appears as an afterthought when programme makers realise they should be thinking about what they’re going to put there. But you’re already seeing the most savvy story-tellers designing content to be produced, delivered and consumed across multiple screens. It’s the emergence of super-media as opposed to trans-media. Trans-media is a TV show with a bit for the web and a bit for mobile. Super-media is where you put all of that into a synchronous second screen.

Mike Nutley is a former editor of New Media Age. His column has been reproduced here with the permission of Admonsters.

The Drum has teamed up with Admonsters to launch the Monsters of Innovation competition, which will showcase 10 of the most promising start-ups focused on building the revenue engines of emerging digital media platforms.

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