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Seasonality and the Second Screen

Sarah Hale

Remember the scene in “Back to the Future Part II” where Marty McFly comes home to this picture-in-picture monstrosity on his wall?

Image source:
Image source:

Like many other predictions in the movie, the six-screen TV falls into the category of “mostly true.” Consumers are watching television with multiple screens, but most have the TV on as they browse on their smartphones or tablets.

From experience, we know browsing multiple devices at once is a common habit, but research shows that second screen viewing is essentially the norm. Accenture’s Digital Video and the Connected Consumer report found that a whopping 87 percent of consumers are using a second screen (ranging from smartphones to laptops) while watching TV.

Traditionally, however, broadcast TV viewership declines in the summer. Unfortunately, the same was true for cable viewership last summer: Nielsen reported that ratings were down by as much as 36 percent as viewers abandoned cable for streaming services (many of them ad-free).

Here, we’re faced with two conflicting trends: viewing with a second screen is up, but traditional TV viewership overall is down. The end result is that fewer eyeballs are fixated on a traditional television screen, and traditional ads are (surprise) no longer a sure bet.

Here’s how marketers can not only compensate for the lack of traditional TV viewership, but also exceed their reach through alternative means this summer:

  • Analyze the whole customer journey. Unless you’re a digital marketing master, there are likely pieces of the puzzle you’re missing. Even after studying Google analytics data, viewership numbers, etc. and coming up with an approximate path to purchase, there will still be gaps. Fill in those gaps with insights about consumer behavior wherever you can get it - through studies detailing consumer interaction with the tactics you do use to demographic data that may give insight into consumer behavior.
  • Map a complete customer path-to-purchase. Marry the segmentation you performed above with what you know about your customers’ behavior and the gaps you’ve filled in. Then, overlay the tactics you’ve been using to visually fill in the omissions in your strategy. While you can’t reach consumers via every channel or every possible touchpoint, your analysis should reveal which sources your audiences rely on the most or find the most credible. In this way, you avoid overreliance on one tactic (such as television).
  • Craft a bulletproof strategy. Over-investing in a single channel is never wise, but it’s especially risky as the prominence and role of media is constantly in flux. Streaming may ultimately kill cable, for example, or a combination of unbundled cable and streaming may soon rule consumers’ lives.

Further, insights into how consumers are using various channels and devices can help ensure you have the best chance of reaching them. For example, the Nielsen study referenced earlier found that in the United States, most dual-screen viewers aren’t glued to their smartphones, but rather their laptops. Knowing how your audience consumes media will help you diversify, but also focus your efforts.

The decline of summer viewership coupled with second screen viewing is just one example of the new colliding with the old, and the type of long-term trends we track daily on behalf of clients. While you have more options than ever before for your media spend, don’t be fooled into embracing the new while abandoning the old. Rather, know how your audience behaves and how tactics can work in harmony to maximize your spend.

For more on how tactics can work together, download our Complete Guide to Building a Lead-Focused Digital Ecosystem.