Social TV: What It Means for Marketers

by Kate Rush Sheehy 29 May 2012 Blog Post

Allow me to introduce you to one of the industry’s new favorite catch phrases: Social TV. The term has been used loosely to describe many different types of social media engagement that occur on a viewer’s second (or third) screen. Some of the most prominent examples include:

  • Network-branded tablet/phone apps that allow you to see what friends are watching, and interact with that network’s TV characters

Each of these features facilitates social interactions related to TV content. It’s a great thing for the networks – TV has become a social event again, andthe storytelling extends past the show’s hour-long spot, including through commercial breaks.  But, what does that mean for marketers? If viewers are spending commercial breaks engaging with/about their TV showhow do brands stay relevant?









For starters, it’s going to be inconvenient. In a study released by Nielsen this past Spring, only 12% of respondents reported that they never watch TV while using a second screen. 45% of respondents watched TV while they surfed their tablet at least once a day. With more screens, it’s harder to capture the attention of a once captive audience.

The hard part of this behavioral transformation is that the way marketers approach TV advertising needs to change. Up until now, social has been an outgrowth of whatever the TV campaign is – a hashtag slapped on the corner, or a Facebook link added at the very end of the reel. But really, TV advertising should be an outgrowth of social.  The Coca-Cola Polar Bears in the Super Bowl is a perfect example of a brand that did just that. (Sidenote: the Polar Bears also took Coke to the top of the Super Bowl Social Rankings.) Besides the prominent social counterpoints of the ads, the campaign was so perfectly and contextually relevant. There were few ads during the game that weren’t relevant to sports and/or the Super Bowl but none that integrated social as well as Coke.








The good news? Brands can now engage in non-interruptive brand marketing with consumers that are actively discussing brand-relevant topics. Take the example of a television hashtag (pioneered by Discovery and Bravo over the last few years). A nimble brand advertiser who buys commercial time during the Top Chef season premiere can now also purchase promoted tweets and hashtags that target individuals discussing the show. The social elements of the brand campaign can offer up concrete calls to action centered on deeper experiences and offers than a broadcast commercial could ever deliver.

  • David Markowitz

    Great to see a ‘social TV’ post focused on the marketer angle. We believe that there’s great opportunity for brands to complement their ‘traditional’ TV spots with digital ads integrated into second screen experiences. Our firm enables brands to deliver digital ads in TV companion apps/sites that are sync’d in real-time to TV spots.

    We’ve seen huge lift in brand recall and extraordinary high engagement rates in these sync’d ads. As you indicate, the audience is already on the second screen during the shows, and attention is there during commercial breaks. Reaching this audience will be a must for TV advertisers. The innovative ones will create more compelling messages, allowing a brand message to continue its story from TV to second screen.

    • Kate Rush Sheehy

      I couldn’t agree more, David. And, I think the brands that do it first will have a unique opportunity to partner with networks and be a part of the TV show storytelling. Not only will they be a prominent part of the second screen experience, but they’ll be exponentially more relevant than their competitors.