Target Turns TV Viewership Into a Shoppable Experience on Second-Screen

Target is taking advertising to a whole new level. The retail giant is converting product placement on TV into an online shopping experience via the second screen.

Products that are found at Target, will feature on the TBS comedy Cougar Town. While an episode airs at 10 p.m. EST on Tuesdays, it is simultaneously transmitted on So if viewers see a Target product they like while watching the show, they can view the online simulcast on their mobile or tablet, to locate the product by clicking a flashing red square nearby. See below image as an example:


After clicking the flashing red symbol in the video, viewers are taken to, where they can make a purchase. After the show airs each Tuesday, the full version of the episode, with the products highlighted by the red button, will remain online through April 15 at


Target says that this integrated approach is a first for the company.

“This is a lighthouse project for marketers and demonstrates how brands can move beyond the historical confines of an ‘ad break,’ engage consumers within the premium television content experience, and generate new revenue streams around TV,” says Zane Vella, chief executive of Watchwith, a San Francisco-based company that provides a hosted software platform for television networks to create and deliver time-based interactive content.

“This strategy builds on the traditional idea of paid ‘product placement’ and illustrates a trend we’re seeing in the industry where brands and programming creators are collaborating to find new ways to make television ‘shoppable’ on any connected screen,” Vella adds.

The concept of promoting products on television screens and encouraging viewers to purchase them on their second screens has been floating around since the mid 1990s, according to Mike Proulx, executive vice president and director of social media at Hill Holliday, a Boston-based marketing agency, and co-author of the book Social TV.

“Back then we all used the same example: Watching an episode of Friends and being able to buy Rachel’s sweater. Now that technology has (just about) caught up with this scenario’s promise,” Proulx tells ClickZ.

Target’s move seems to build some ad sense for TV in a connected multi-screen world. But how effective is it to place products into a storyline on a major TV network while viewers are on their phones, laptops, and tablets at the same time? How much traffic has been driven to and how many online transactions have been generated because of Cougar Town? Target declined to provide any solid numbers or decline further at the time of publishing.

“While this idea is worth the experiment, my bet is that it’ll have no material effect on Target’s sales,” says Proulx. “What Target is getting from this stunt is a whole lot of press. And that, by itself, probably creates bigger brand awareness than any standard TV spot can deliver.”

It’s still unknown whether Target’s product placement initiative can monetize TV content or if it’s a mere method to create media buzz as Proulx suggests. But this integrated strategy shows the company’s effort to combine broadcast television with interactive digital campaigns.

“Marketers now have a tangible example of how they can bridge these two separate domains and deliver engaging sync-to-broadcast experiences to consumers in a connected multi-screen world,” says Vella. “‘Shop Cougar Town presented by Target’ is ‘native advertising’ for broadcast television.”

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