Digital marketers have long understood the power of media convergence. It's increasingly rare for consumers to partake of one medium in isolation; they instead opt for simultaneous consumption - looking up a restaurant on Yelp.com after seeing it mentioned on the Food Network while reading the dining section of The New York Times. They do this with the ultimate objective of obtaining the information and entertainment they seek in the quickest, most efficient way possible.
New data from Nielsen suggests this trend is only growing in popularity. According to the company's Q4 2009 Three Screen Report, covering consumer behavior as it relates to video, Americans spent 35 percent more time using the Internet and TV simultaneously than they did the previous year - up to three and a half hours each month.
That may not seem like a lot, considering the report also found Americans watch 37 hours of TV and time-shifted TV each week overall (not to mention online and mobile video). But if you consider that 59 percent of American consumers are now using TV and the Internet in tandem at least once a month, it's clear this is the direction in which we're all heading.
Knowing full well the potential of cross-media marketing, media strategists are working to drive TV viewers online in any way that they can. Through TV advertising and cross-media campaigns that require the use of both mediums (or at the very least, deliver a more enhanced experience when viewed in this way), they're transforming simultaneous usage into an interactive event that can lead to brand loyalty, a viral influence, and of course, more advertising opportunities.
A Cross-Media Fantasy
One approach that's gaining ground is the use of online games to ensure program loyalty and drive viewers to the Web. Many reality series are using fantasy leagues to this effect. CBS's Survivor Fantasy League allows players to sign in weekly to make their picks for who will be voted off the program next. The game is made even more attractive with a related contest that could win participants a trip to the South Pacific, where the show is taped.
While viewers needn't be watching the show at the moment that they make their picks for the following week, Survivor sponsor, Sprint invites them to participate in a related mobile contest with a similar effect. At the end of each episode, viewers are given the top three contenders for player of the week and asked to text in their vote immediately for their chance to win a large cash prize.
To then encourage cross-media consumption with the Web, Sprint developed a microsite related to the Survivor sponsorship and mobile contest. The site doesn't just provide the rules and regulations of the contest; it also offers information about the show's cast, video clips (also available in a mobile format), product information, and a link to the Survivor Fantasy League Facebook app, also sponsored by Sprint.
The CBS site, Sprint microsite, and Sprint's mobile content all serve to extend the Survivor experience beyond its dedicated time slot. They represent an opportunity to expand viewer interaction with the Survivor brand, while encouraging a loyal viewership throughout the show's season.
Blogs and Ads With Drive
With network and cable programs offering more robust Web sites than ever before, executives are eager to draw their viewers online not just after, but also during their shows. Series like Project Runway promote their blogs, which feature the host and past contestants of the program, throughout each show; by emphasizing the exclusive content therein, it's able to lure loyal fans who are hungry for more as well as those new to the show and interested in catching up.
Meanwhile, cable network HGTV is using its TV real estate - the lower right-hand corner of the screen on real estate programs like House Hunters - to drive traffic to its real estate resource FrontDoor.com. Viewers who are accustomed to passively watching as others look for a new home can actively take the first step toward beginning their own search - without even turning off the TV. For HGTV, it's an opportunity to capitalize on the interest of its audience in the context of a highly relevant show, and to create a sense of immediacy about a Web-based real estate search that's easily carried out.
The concepts of a captive audience and cross-media consumption don't seem as though they should mix, but TV viewers (and Web users) will pay attention to a message if it's relevant to their current state of mind. The resulting Web traffic benefits the networks, but it also benefits digital advertisers. More simultaneous Web usage means more cross-media marketing efforts, bigger online audiences...and more digital advertising opportunities for all.
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Tessa Wegert is an interactive media strategist with Enlighten, one of the first full-service digital marketing strategy and services agencies, serving such brands as Bioré, Bratz, Food Network, illy, Hunter Douglas, Jergens, and Olympic Paints and Stains. An industry veteran, Tessa has worked in online media buying and planning, marketing, and online copywriting since 1999. She is an active freelance writer specializing in interactive marketing who has contributed to U.S. and Canadian publications, including "USA Weekend Magazine," "Marketing Magazine," "The Globe and Mail," and "The Montreal Gazette." She is frequently quoted as an industry expert and speaks regularly at industry conferences and events.
March 19, 2014