Does Social Media Enhance TV Advertising?

Does Social Media Enhance TV Advertising?

Most of the advertising industry currently sees social media and broadcast as different channels with separate audiences.

But is that really the case, asks  Isaac Leung for ad tech company Dubsat? At the very least, there’s no denying the impact that social media and the Internet has had on TV.

A lot of these changes have to do with consumer behaviour. For example, earlier this year, a piece of research from Harvard Business School found the attention span of the average American has been whittled down to just eight seconds.

It’s tempting to blame this on the piecemeal nature of content on social media, or on the six-second long Vine videos, or the short-lived Tweet. But when your average human consumer has a shorter attention span than a goldfish, you start doubting the effectiveness of the traditional 15- or 30-second ad on TV.

And these doubts are justified. Recent research from YuMe and IPG Media Lab, for example show people watching TV at home are less attentive and less receptive to advertising, compared to those who see ads on mobile devices.

But maybe instead of thinking about social media as a threat to broadcast advertising, or an altogether separate channel, it would be more useful to see it as a tool to be used alongside the TV.

The recent Social Media Week brought together five experts in the TV and social media sectors in a discussion panel titled “Has Social Changed TV Forever”. Here are our key takeaways and analyses from the session.

TV, the original “social” media

Broadcast advertising works precisely because of the social aspects of TV and radio. Families gather around the radio or television set for entertainment. Friends and colleagues find commonality in discussing the television shows they are watching, leading to the term “water cooler effect”.

According to Scott Gillham, Head of Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings, social media has accelerated and scaled up the water cooler effect. TV audiences, instead of waiting for work the next day, can now share their experience instantaneously with a large audience.

“We are at the start of the road when it comes to social and TV…the ability to tap into audience energy for TV is exciting for both networks and advertisers,” Gillham said.

Toby Forage, the Social TV Lead for SBS, agrees.

“[Social] gives a new layer of content to play with. Viewers no longer rely on commentators’ viewpoints, but their own viewpoints are put across as well,” Forage said.

By implementing mechanisms that create and allows viewers to use social media to affect what is happening on TV in real-time, advertisers can increase the motivation for TV viewers to get involved with ads being broadcast.

Content is (still) king

The biggest problem for TV advertisers is increasing disengagement by their audiences – and social media is a double-edged sword in this regard.

On the one hand, it increases disengagement, by providing the audience with an opportunity to distract themselves from the TV during periods of boring programming, or during ad breaks. On the other hand, if used properly, it’s one way to regain audience engagement with the television.

“People tune in (to social media) in real time to be part of the conversation and to avoid spoilers,” Gillham explained.

Social can drive viewing and ratings.

Forage says through social media, advertisers can transform passive viewers into an audience, whether they do so by hosting social media games to go along with live TV programs, or going along with spontaneous crowd-generated hashtags.

“It’s about having fun and bringing fun into broadcast…and engaging the audience with the production of the show,” Forage said.

The theme of audience empowerment is one which is both exciting and challenging. Viewers can now have a hand in affecting parts of what is broadcast on the television. But it remains to be seen if broadcasters and advertisers are prepared to deal with the spontaneous nature of these interactions.

What this all means for advertising production

According to Forage, broadcasters are now focused on leveraging social media in their programming, as they look to maximize value from their content, so the social-TV trend will only grow. But what role will agencies and advertisers play?

The jury is still out. There are at least three possible paths that this could take, and a lot of it depends on the response of brand owners and agencies:

  • Social seen as an entirely separate channel, with a separate audience from broadcast: agencies retain their departmental silos; broadcast producers continue to produce BTS and extended content for putting online.
  • Social as a TV-killer: online departments see big growth while broadcast departments are folded into online video or slowly stagnate; broadcast producers evolve their offerings away from TV ads to content like seconds-long Vine/Instagram videos and longer-form videos and short films destined for online platforms.
  • Social and TV in symbiotic relationship: agencies find ways to bring their online and broadcast departments together, while producers will have to be much more flexible and responsive to real-time changes, with deadlines measured in hours or minutes rather than days. They will also have to adapt to systems that enable social media capabilities on TV ads.

The future

It’s still early days for social media and TV, so not all the pieces are in place yet. Broadcasters are each trying to build their own platforms, making it difficult for both advertisers and agencies to work with them without getting locked down.

In the next few years, we should expect broadcaster and platform-agnostic social-TV integration platforms to emerge, bringing increased co-operation and integration across the advertising supply chain from brand owners to agencies to production to broadcasters.

In terms of content, data will have a big part in ensuring continued engagement with social-TV viewers. Data will allow broadcasters and advertisers to know who the user is, and who is in their social circles. They can then deliver personalised and relevant social posts and data created by their family, friends and co-workers who might be watching the same content on TV.

Written by Isaac Leung for

This article has been syndicated with permission from

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