With increasing smartphone penetration, the growing use of tablets, as well as laptops and PCs, it’s more than likely that people are viewing TV while using another device, or with one close at hand. 

For our Multi-Screen Marketer report (free to Econsultancy members), produced in association with the IAB, we looked at the trends in this area, and the important lessons for marketers. 

I’ll look at some of the stats from the report, as well as examples of publishers and brands that are beginning to adapt to this trend. 

Multi-tasking across devices has arrived: the stats

Unlike some other digital phenomena, it’s not the sole territory of early adopters. Even among those respondents with just a television and computer, 52% report that it’s somewhat or very likely that they’re using another device while watching television.

With each screen added to the mix, that percentage rises, with 60% of smartphone users (three screens) and 65% of tablet owners (four screens) saying that multi-device use is the norm while watching TV.

Using devices to respond to TV

Tablets change the game, because they bring the app ecosystem together with the best usability aspects of the smartphone and computer. You can do plenty with your phone, but it’s not always easy.

65% of smartphone users in the sample say it’s very common that sites don’t work well for their device. Tablet owners are significantly more likely to use their mobile devices to take an action sparked by something they’re watching.

The lessons for marketers

These multi-screen consumers are ready to switch attention to their second (or third and fourth) devices when they become bored, or when distracted by a text or some other alert. 

For marketers, there is an opportunity to create content and experiences which are complementary to that shown on TV.

This may be to complement live events and provide further opportunities for advertisers, or to optimise response rates to advertising seen on TV

Here are a few examples: 

Prometheus

To promote the new 20th Century Fox film Prometheus,  a new three-minute trailer for the film was screened simultaneously online, on Channel 4 and on social TV app Zeebox.

Viewers were then encouraged to tweet about the film using the hashtag #areyouseeingthis. During the next ad break, Channel 4 screened a 40 second spot which included viewer’s tweets about the trailer. 

Those shown on screen were all positive, though not all of those on Twitter were: 

The campaign was a success in terms of getting people to talk about the film, with the volume of tweets peaking at more than 4,000, while the hashtag was trending for a while. At its peak the Twitter activity reached more than 15m users. 

Ciroc Superbowl 

The vodka brand created a series of 15 minute online videos featuring P Diddy doing things you wouldn’t expect of him, like bull fighting and curling.

These were tweeted by the rapper during the game, while rich media banners went live at the same time.

The ads led to a microsite containing all of the videos in the series, along with various interactive features. After watching the videos, viewers could leave a comment on the site, send a tweet, or share the videos on Facebook and Twitter.

The results? In three days, the ads achieved 1.3m impressions, the rate of mobile clicks to the site was 11% and the ad units led to more than 4,000 conversations.

Watch with eBay

The Watch With eBay iPad app allows you to browse and purchase products related to the show you’re watching on TV. The app syncs wih TV schedules, and when the user inputs the programme they are watching, it recommends related items. 

Shazam 

Originally a music discovery app, Shazam now sees its future as a TV direct response mechanism.

To coincide with the Super Bowl, various ads were Shazam-enabled, and users that scanned the ads using the app could unlock various goodies. 

For example viewers using Shazam on the Toyota ad were entered into a competition to win a car, while Cars.com would donate $1 to charity for every use of Shazam with the ad: 

Shazam, which recently partnered with ITV in the UK, has claimed some success with these ads. For example, 50,000 viewers used the Shazam app to tag the Pepsi MAX and Cadbury ads shown during ad breaks in Saturday’s Britain’s Got Talent final.

For more inspiration, see this excellent Slideshare presentation on 10 ways marketers are using the second screen: