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Is multiscreen viewing making consumers more distracted than engaged?

Second-screen applications, sound recognition and SMS are just some of the ways that marketers are choosing to interact with consumers. However, with the shift in multiscreen viewing, marketers have to fight for users? attention more than ever.

In an age where consumers are plugged into their mobile devices while watching television, marketers are scrambling to connect with users on multiple mediums at the same time, which can lead users to getting overwhelmed. However, if the context and content is spot-on, it can lead to a further engagement.

?This is a sliding scale ? as interaction with and focus on the second screen increases, concentration and focus on the first screen ? TV ? decreases,? said Caroline Park, Buckinghamshire, England-based senior analyst of user experience practice at Strategy Analytics.

?It is not that they are more of less engaged in activity than they were prior to using the second screen, it is just that their engagement is moving between the two devices,? she said.

Distracted or engaged?
Consumers have a wide array of tech tools available to them while watching TV, including laptops, smartphones and tablets.

With the amount of devices that consumers have available to them, TV advertising and programing is not what it used to be as a direct way to target users.

Just getting a consumer in front of a TV set is enough of a battle with video streaming services such as Hulu, Netflix and YouTube that let users create their own entertainment schedule when and where they want it.

Additionally, when a consumer is watching TV, they are actively using their devices to share their experiences with friends and family - whether it is through SMS, social networks or entertainment apps.

Similar to other mobile marketing initiatives, not all consumers are responsive to the same kinds of messages and companies need to tailor their marketing for specific groups of users.

For example, an entertainment-based program such as American Idol might be more geared towards a companion program that includes social media and check-ins because of the show?s real-time component.

On the other hand, a sitcom might not be best suited for a mobile component if it does not give users an additional layer of valued engagement.

With younger, tech-savvy users multitasking on their devices, programs in the future might begin thinking about marketing with a mobile-first strategy, per Ms. Park

?Multiscreen use is most prevalent within the younger generation and this is a behavioral pattern that is not going to change,?Ms. Park said.

?As the behavior of multiscreen use begins to permeate through the older generation and brands and shows begin to develop apps specifically for certain viewer types, the adoption level of this behavior seems set to increase,? she said.

The value of the check-in
With apps such as Shazam, GetGlue and Viggle all gaining steam with both marketers and consumers, more companies are integrating mobile into TV ads.

Part of the challenge of these apps though is that they take away from the TV content itself while interacting with the app.

Additionally, many of the TV companion apps available to consumers do not give users an added value. If a consumer is expected to use their device during a 30-second commercial, there needs to be an upfront value to consumers.

?The sound-recognition on TV shows are an interesting way to check-in and unlock content, but it's only incrementally easier than just running a check-in app,? said Todd Drake, vice president of technology at Organic, San Francisco.

?The sound-recognition addition to ads is pretty fruitless unless you compulsively have one of them constantly running,? he said.

?Finally, getting past stickers and gimmicky campaigns, providing real valuable content or interaction is going to be key.?

Other apps such as Viggle though have a more promising incentive that let users accumulate points for gift card earned for checking-in to TV shows. Additionally, the app uses location, which could help marketers create more tailored campaigns.

The Viggle iPhone app

Mobile engagement
Although there are both pros and cons for multiscreen watching, some experts believe that mobile is a huge step in the right direction with engagement and clear calls-to-action.

?Consumers now can use their digital connected device to interact with what is happening and be part of the broadcast conversation,? said Jeff Hinz, managing partner and United States digital director at MediaCom, New York.

?TV networks are all asking consumers to be part of the content by including more and more calls-to-action,? he said.

?From a brand perspective this is great since consumers are more digitally aware and will be more apt to connect with you if you ask them to join your brand conversation.?

For example, Sony Pictures recently used Shazam in a campaign for its summer release movies that was very well executed.

Sony Pictures ran Shazam-enabled commercials that let consumers learn more about the movies and buy tickets. With a simple call-to-action and an upfront value ? in this case buying movie ticket sales ? the TV ad helps build a direct relationship with a consumer (see story).

As long as the content is engaging and ties in with the TV programming or ad, marketers should be looking at mobile as a way to interact with users while watching TV.

?The audience wants to be heard, so you will begin to see more and more real-time conversations around programming outside of just sports and news,? Mr. Hinz said.

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is editorial assistant on Mobile Marketer, New York