The Future of Across-Screen Advertising: Part II -- Bill Harvey

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Cover image for  article: The Future of Across-Screen Advertising: Part II -- Bill Harvey

In this series I am providing more in-depth coverage of the information contained in the CBS presentation that Dave Poltrack and I delivered at the recent ARF Audience Measurement Conference.

In the prior post I suggested the term Across-Screen Advertising to denote the use of synchronized advertiser content simultaneously across two or more screens. For example, a viewer with the TV on and a tablet in her lap sees AT&T content on the TV set and looks down at the tablet only to discover similar AT&T content there.

When Jack Wakshlag tested that on a “Conan” episode, AT&T brand favorability shot up from 25% on TV only (solo viewing) to 58% Across-Screen ( Turner, Ipsos Feb-Mar 2012).

Jack’s pioneering work on Across-Screen did not stop there. To me the most intriguing findings of that work concerned the effect of social viewing. Using Innerscope biometrics and eye tracking, it was possible to define engagement very tightly to include arousal (heart rate, skin conductance, pupil dilation) as well as actual eyes-on-screen (one screen or the other, and knowing which one). It turns out that when two people are viewing TV together in the same room, their screen engagement (defined by these tight involuntary measures including eye tracking to know when eyes are on screen) goes up +30%.

We can understand this, because human beings do turn each other on -- or off -- but additionally, the presence of another human being does make us more alert. And it is not hard to understand that this increase in alertness could rub off on media, although I don’t recall hearing anyone ever postulate such a thing. This is really a breakthrough finding! To now know that human presence/interaction enhances media effectiveness is a wonderful thing.

Now here’s the really amazing part. When the other person is not physically in the room with us, and we are merely socializing with them electronically while watching TV -- at those very different times, then what is the effect on screen engagement?

Exactly the same! +30%!

This is not hard to understand but it may be a little hard to believe at first. Shouldn’t we be distracted by the second screen socializing all the time? Apparently not. Socializing whether in person or electronically ensures that we are not just fogging out. We must be engaged in the present to socialize. This alertness stance is what makes the difference; that is my hypothesis. Not having the other person in the room might actually help keep eyes on the TV screen. Whatever the explanations, we know it exists in reality – and not just from one study, either.

Using a completely different methodology, classical advertising research best practices with hard measures of exposed/unexposed (having the latter is as good as it gets in advertising research), Symphony Advanced Media is corroborating Jack Wakshlag’s landmark finding every day. In their nearly 10,000-person national panel (being passively measured for exposure to screen content across TV, digital, mobile phone and tablet, social and search), studies done for different advertisers, agency groups and networks indicate that what they call “Socialtasking” (their coinage from “multitasking” and Symphony’s coined word “Mobiletasking”) lifts advertising recall up to six additional percentage points of the audience when people are watching TV while communicating with other people electronically by any means.

If recall is a necessary though not sufficient response to cause sales, a six point increase in TV ad recall is highly desirable.

The highest lifts in TV ad recall are caused by people Socialtasking using Facebook while watching TV.

Symphony also finds that Gametasking (playing games on second screen) has the most deleterious effects on TV ad recall, the opposite of Socialtasking.

So, on the question of how much does second screen take away from the value of TV advertising, the assumption the market has been making up until now is:

  1. It depends on what specifically is being done (if anything) on the second screen at that time.
  2. If using the second screen to communicate with another real person, the distraction effect is swamped by an opposite alertness effect that nets out to increase the value of TV advertising.
  3. If you’re talking about game usage, you were right all along -- it distracts from the effect of TV advertising. However, game usage is only about one sixth of all Mobiletasking, so the positives outweigh the negatives overall.

Indeed, if you are a TV advertiser or agency, or a TV network or program producer, you want to inspire people to Socialtask about you or the program you are in. It could be a very high predictor of ROI, and of increased audience size ratings in the future.

We know there are other types of metrics that predict ROI. For example, TiVo Research/TRA has shown that its purchaser concentration metric (the True Target Index or TTI) predicts ROI lift as 70% of the TTI lift on average. If you change your buy to increase TTI 10% you will probably see your ROI go up by 7%. If this can be done for one metric it can be done for all metrics, although many metrics we use every day might have very low ROI predictivity. Especially for that reason, it pays to find out. All metrics we use in decision making should be measured in singlesource studies to calibrate their value to ROI. Socialtasking could be a very high predictor like TTI, as the Alertness Effect is substantial, and a major new discovery that will impact our media lives.

In the next installment of this Across-Screen series, we will talk about how to activate Across-Screen to increase Socialtasking, the Alertness Effect, series ratings and advertising effectiveness/ROI, and thereby how to leverage and monetize these findings yourself.

Bill Harvey is a well-known media researcher and inventor who co-founded TRA, Inc. and is itsBill HarveyStrategic Advisor. His nonprofit Human Effectiveness Institute runs his weekly blog on consciousness optimization. Bill can be contacted at

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