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Direct Response Marketing

Screens, Screens … Everywhere Screens

1 Nov, 2013 By: Bridget McCrea Response

How marketers can combine traditional TV with the second and third screens to deliver their messages and drive transactions.


Anyone who can remember back to a time when the TV was the only screen that captured viewers’ eyeballs (you know who you are) is keenly aware of how far we’ve come in a very short time. As the first piece of technology to infiltrate the TV’s sacred ground, the laptop offered up an easy way for viewers to multitask in front of the TV. When the lighter, more portable tablet hit the scene, the venerable television screen suddenly found itself in stiffer competition for eyeballs. Add the new crop of large-screened, Internet-enabled smartphones to the mix and the end result is a melting pot comprised of multiple screens — all vying for attention.

Not willing to stand by and watch their advertising investments erode, smart marketers have learned how to effectively position themselves and their products and services in the multi-screen environment. And with research firms like eMarketer reporting that the more online devices a consumer has, the more likely it is that he or she will multitask on them while watching TV, the need to achieve a balance among the various screens is only going to grow.

Second screen users aren’t just surfing the Internet. Many of them are viewing videos on their devices — a trend that direct response marketers, by their very nature, are well braced to take advantage of. A new study from Ericsson ConsumerLab, for example, finds that one in every four TV viewers uses a second screen to watch two or more programs, live events, or shows at the same time (to see the study, visit: http://www.ericsson.com/res/docs/2013/consumerlab/tv-and-media-consumerl...). Calling TV a “multi-screen and multi-tasking activity,” Ericsson says 75 percent of viewers multitask by using mobile devices while watching TV.

“Consumer viewing habits now involve so much more than just the living room TV and traditional broadcast services,” Ericsson reports. “The modern consumer has a wealth of choices over their device and content sources, allowing them to adapt their viewing experience to suit their needs and putting them in charge of their TV and video consumption.”

Harnessing the Multi-Channel Funnel

With consumers using more devices to access content both in front and away from the TV, Jack Kirby says the important thing for marketers to remember is that content is still king. So regardless of how the advertising is presented to the consumer or how he or she chooses to access it, the importance of a good, core, foundational message remains extremely high.

“People have more viewing choices than ever,” says Kirby, Los Angeles-based president of electronic commerce at Havas Edge. “For marketers, it’s the ‘Wild West’ right now; there are a lot of renegade activities taking place because the Internet isn’t as controlled as other platforms that advertisers are accustomed to using.”

Despite the gun slinging and trial-and-error taking place online right now, Kirby says marketers can’t afford to run away from the fact that their customers are using multiple screens while watching TV. “When someone is looking at a show with an iPad in her hand and prompted to visit a website for more information, she’s going to do it right while she’s sitting there,” says Kirby. “That’s a real opportunity for marketers who have the necessary platforms and content in place to capture their order base.”

Getting there isn’t always easy for marketers, many of whom don’t grasp the difference between “viewer content” and the “order platform content” — both of which need to be addressed in order to leverage the multi-screen environment. Kirby sees viewer content as the bigger opportunity area for DR marketers who benefit from a proliferation of places to present their messages. “The challenge there comes with visibility — with how to track results across multiple platforms,” says Kirby. “With one URL, even if you get 1-800 numbers for each platform, you lose visibility when 60-80 percent of the ordering process takes place online.”

That loss of visibility can be particularly onerous for DR marketers accustomed to having accurate campaign measurements, metrics and accountability. Just how they adapt to this challenge could make or break marketers’ ability to effectively leverage the second and third screens, says Kirby.

“In the DR industry, we’re so used to knowing where the return is coming from on every dollar that we spend,” he points out. “But we’re not dealing with a single funnel anymore; it’s a multi-platform funnel. Being able to react to that data — and ensure that the tracking mechanisms and algorithms are in place to manage online traffic — will be the keys to survival.”

Picking up the Pace

During the past three to four years, Tony Besasie, president of Cannella Response Television in Burlington, Wis., has seen a significant percentage of consumers shift from ordering on a computer to placing orders from their smartphones and/or tablets. This trend is a double-edged sword for the marketer that, on one hand, has a larger number of transactional channels at its avail. But on the other hand, the marketer has to be able to effectively harness those various opportunities in order to effectively leverage them all — never an easy task in a constantly evolving digital advertising environment.

The fact that conversions tend to drop off as orders move from the phone to the PC to the tablet is also making the transition difficult for marketers. “Live operators get the highest conversions, followed by the PC, then the tablet, and then the mobile phone,” says Besasie. “Marketers are driving consumers to the telephone when they can while also factoring in the efficiency of the order (online orders require less human oversight, for example) into the equation. It’s not always an easy balance to achieve.”

One way marketers can make inroads in this area is by accepting the mobile phone for what it is: a calling device and a tool for surfing the Web and placing an order online. The consumer who is given an easy, one-click way to “place a call to a live operator” after viewing an online DRTV spot on her device, for example, may be easier to convert into a paying customer than one who isn’t given that option.

“We’ve seen some companies have great success with a hybrid model,” says Besasie, “that provides a point at which the consumer can call and talk to someone in person.”

The tablet also offers the opportunity to augment primary TV ad campaigns, according to Besasie, and squeeze in footage that would otherwise wind up on the editing room floor during short- or long-form DR production. A product like Proactiv Solution, for example, can be used by a wide swath of consumers but the full scope of its message can’t be jammed into a 30- or 60-second spot.

By leveraging the interplay between TV and the multi-screen environment, however, the product marketer can effectively address a broad audience on the first screen and then speak to different segments (teen girls, teen boys, women experiencing hormonal changes, etc.) on the second and third screens. “That can help convert more shoppers into buyers,” says Besasie, “and more viewers into people who actually want to make a purchase.”

Wait and See

According to Besasie, many marketers are taking a “wait-and-see” attitude when it comes to these and other second-screen strategies — perhaps hoping that someone else will blaze the trail and see how it works. “I haven’t found anyone who has objected to it,” he explains, “but for now most companies are looking to optimize their websites and get the scripting correct first — rather than just jumping right in. It’s a matter of priorities and scale.”

Credit DR marketers’ propensity for methodical testing for creating some of the apprehension around second-screen strategies, says Besasie, who adds that most want to know if A outperformed B in comparative studies before launching campaigns that would effectively leverage the multi-screen environment.

“This is a big leap for the DR industry, which is slowly and incrementally progressing in this area,” says Besasie. “There was a time, for example, that no one paid attention to the Web and now marketers are doing Web optimization. The next step is the integration of second screen, which is definitely occurring at an accelerated pace compared to Web integration.”

It Takes an Integrated Marketer

As more consumers watch TV with their mobile phones in one hand and their tablets in the other, the need for advertisers to embrace and respond to the trend will only increase. And as companies strive to find that balance among the screens and make viewing points transactional in nature, they are sure to run into a few challenges along the way.

For one, says Besasie, mobile phone screens just aren’t big enough to accommodate traditional DR messaging, graphics and video. “There’s only so much information you can get on that screen, and navigating it can be a challenge,” he says.

And while it may be easy to get key points across on lower involvement items — like Chia Pets, for example — complex products like the Total Gym require more screen space. This is where a “click here for live agent” strategy comes into play and allows users to leverage their phones’ capabilities to place an order, get more information, and more.

“From what we’ve seen so far, this cross-communication option is key in the multi-screen environment,” says Besasie. “You have to give consumers options, knowing that the more information they can access the better they’ll be able to engage and interact with your product and company.”

Looking ahead, Nancy Lazkani, a self-proclaimed four-screen user and CEO at Icon Media Direct in Los Angeles, doesn’t see harnessing the attention of the distracted TV viewer getting any easier. In fact, it will probably get harder as more marketers figure out how to do it effectively. She says fully integrated campaigns that factor in all screens from the outset — and not as afterthoughts — will achieve the highest success rates.

“Right now multi-screen usage is still in its infancy, but consumer adoption of relevant technology is happening faster than marketers are adapting to it,” says Lazkani. “Consumers are leading the way; they are the center of the marketing universe. As the multi-screen environment continues to proliferate, it will take an integrated marketer to connect with an integrated consumer.” ■


About the Author: Bridget McCrea


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