Second-Screening The ‘Big Game’: A Guide To Advertising Interceptions

If past viewing patterns are any guide, more than half of Super Bowl watchers will be dividing their attention between the TV screen and the device on their laps or in their hands. But does second-screen messaging truly boost advertising effectiveness? Or should marketers pass on trying to be everywhere?

Second-Screening The ‘Big Game’: A Guide To Advertising Interceptions

During this year’s Super Bowl, some advertisers will be out to make interceptions, too.

Some 118 million or so people are likely to tune into the big game on CBS. If past viewing patterns are any guide, more than half will be dividing their attention between the TV screen and the device on their laps or in their hands. How many exactly? No one knows for sure, but a 2014 Nielsen report found that 84% of consumers who owned a tablet and smartphone said they used their devices as second screens while watching TV. In 2015, Accenture pegged the number at 87%. And according to new Adobe Digital Index analysis, Millennials will be leading the charge.

Despite those figures, some have found advertisers’ attempts to provide fulfilling second-screen experiences during the Super Bowl to be lacking. In an analysis of the 2015 game’s digital advertising outreach, analytics firm Wywy noted that 18% of advertisers didn’t connect their websites to their Super Bowl ad messages; on mobile, the figure was 20%. Just 38% prominently displayed their advertised products on the mobile version of their home pages. In a MediaPost article, Steve Smith, editorial director of events, complained that “most of the [second screen] action was happening on Twitter, and it was underwhelming.”

That said, awareness of second screen grows every year. This year, Twitter has upped its game with new products, including a Designated Moment—curated feeds of tweets related to the game; Conversational Ads that let fans tweet prewritten messages; and an in-app Super Bowl Vine channel. Snapchat is also introducing a Super Bowl Story that features Amazon, Budweiser, and Marriott as sponsors. Facebook has rolled out Sports Stadium, a sports content hub that will not include advertisers this year.

The activity comes, in many cases, despite the lack of hard metrics showing that second screen boosts the effect of an ad or can successfully undercut a competitor’s TV spot. The proliferation of second-screen opportunities—including messaging—also make it challenging to get a message across in such a crowded environment.

Who’s Doing What

While once there was really only one venue for second-screen Super Bowl tie-ins—Twitter—now there are several. Snapchat is the newcomer to this year’s game. The popular messaging service inked a deal with the NFL in September that gives it rights to logos and behind-the scenes footage. As with other Snapchat Live Stories, Snapchat’s Super Bowl Story will feature curated snaps from fans. If you see a moment that interests you, you can swipe and see more related snaps. Snapchat has been stingy with its metrics, but has said that “millions” have tuned in for NFL-related snaps over the past season. The ad packages added up to the “low seven figures,” according to a report in Digiday. Snapchat reps declined comment.

Twitter, under pressure to defend its status as the go-to platform for second screen, has not only introduced new products for the game, but has opened a “blue room” in its San Francisco offices—just a short drive from the actual game in Santa Clara—where talent can tweet, Vine, and Periscope. Fox Sports shows are also being shot at Twitter’s headquarters the week before the game.

“We can expect to see another massive conversation around this year’s game—and brands are already starting to capitalize on pre-Super Bowl buzz by launching campaigns in advance,” said David Pattillo, director of sales at Twitter, in an interview with

For example, Super Bowl 50 title sponsor Verizon is promoting the hashtag #Minute50, a contest that offers prizes to Verizon customers who, every hour on minute 50, text “Minute50” to a dedicated number. Pepsi will also have a Promoted Moment and Promoted Trend on the day of the Super Bowl to showcase behind-the-scenes footage during the game. Last week, the brand started using the hashtag #PepsiHalftime to hype the event.

Though much larger than Twitter, Facebook hasn’t earned a reputation for real-time commentary. The social network has made moves in that direction with the introduction of trending terms and hashtags, but its nonchronological News Feed and lack of a character limit on posts works against Facebook’s efforts to become a news hub. On mobile, though, Facebook has a chance to reboot its efforts with Sports Stadium, a “dedicated space” that includes status updates about the game from people in your feed, plus posts from experts, live scores, and stats and info about the game.

Another player is the Facebook-owned Instagram. Cathleen Ryan, director of marketing and advertising at Intuit, said Instagram is among the “three biggies” the company is using this year to promote Turbo Tax. Ryan told she plans to release a full version of the ad online after it plays for the first time on TV during the third quarter. Facebook and Twitter both have their benefits, she said.

“You get immediate reactions on both platforms. The conversation tends to be a bit more immediate on Twitter,” Ryan said. “We look at the platforms very differently, and we approach them differently.”

Finally, Google for the first time is rolling out real-time ads on YouTube that advertisers can update on the fly. YouTube is working with one advertiser, Wix, during the Super Bowl. Comcast will use real-time ads during the Academy Awards telecast later this month. As Wired noted, “Whether it’s a game-winning field goal, a breakout moment on the presidential campaign trail, or a memorable award show acceptance speech, advertisers will be able to push a button and trigger ads related to that moment, a feature that companies like Twitter also offer.”

What’s The Payoff?

Now that all of these new tools are available, marketers might reasonably ask what they can expect from them. Twitter, which has been at the forefront of real-time marketing, has claimed that users who see a TV ad for a product or brand and then engage with a related Promoted Tweet experience 95% stronger message association and 58% higher purchase intent compared with just seeing the TV ad. However, that stat doesn’t account for causality. A person who engages with a Promoted Tweet may also already be a fan of the product and will have a naturally higher brand association and purchase intent.

“I haven’t seen any data that reflects that this is more effective,” said Cathy Boyle, an analyst with eMarketer. “I think there’s anecdotal evidence that if you keep a user engaged on a mobile device that will help.”

Alan Wolk, a senior analyst with The Diffusion Group, agreed. “Short of doing A/B testing, you don’t really know,” he told “You don’t know how much is second screen and how much was it was a really good ad with really good placement.”

Studies aside, Esurance offers a real-world case study for the power of real-time Super Bowl media. In 2014, the company ran a 30-second spot right after the game that asked viewers to tweet the hashtag #EsuranceSave30 to be eligible to win $1.5 million. The effort garnered more than 3 million entries.

Intuit’s Ryan also said that adding second-screen messaging boosts results. “Getting in front of people on all the screens our customers are on is significantly more effective,” she explained. “We want to be on all the screens, whether it’s on the wall or in your hand.”

The Black Hole Of Messaging

One potential impediment to real-time marketing is messaging. While Snapchat runs ads, other messaging platforms, such as Apple’s iMessage and Facebook’s Messenger and, to a lesser degree in the U.S., WhatsApp, don’t. As a result, all those clever quips and observations that viewers log are out of reach to advertisers.

According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau, some 54% of second-screen viewers text to friends while watching TV, a figure that is almost as high as those who post to social networks (58%.) The trend, especially among younger users, is that messaging is taking the place of traditional social media. It’s growing faster now, especially on a global level.

“It’s a huge missed opportunity,” said Jill Sherman, SVP of social strategy at Digitas, in an interview with “The big messaging apps haven’t cracked that code in terms of bringing tangible opportunities to brands, but the reality is that much of social networking is happening in these apps.”

Go Big Or Stay Home

Sherman has some advice for would-be second-screeners during this year’s game: Use a single hashtag instead of many. Further, don’t try to get on every social network, just the ones that make sense for your brand.

Above all, though, Sherman said brands should assess whether they want to compete for attention during the Super Bowl or put their resources elsewhere. During the run-up to the game, all media tends to become more expensive. Even if you’re adept at second-screening, it can be tough to land a message in such an environment. Said Sherman: “I think we’re going to start seeing some brands bow out for the day and find other days of the year to spend their budget.”

See what the Twitterverse is saying about the second screen: