Dual screening is a phrase that has become increasingly common in recent years. It is a term used to describe the action of having a TV on, while simultaneously using a second screen, such as a mobile, tablet or laptop.

In 2015 Accenture found, ‘87% of consumers use more than one device at a time. Globally, the smartphone is the most frequent companion device scoring 57% overall. This trend is particularly strong for millennials, with 74% of 14- to17-year-olds using a combination of TV/smartphones during viewing. This is not the case in North America, where a laptop/computer was used more frequently for simultaneous viewing (59%t vs. 42% for smartphones)’.

An eConsultancy study found that 76% of simultaneous device usage is spent looking at completely unrelated content to what’s on TV.  Simply put, people are too engaged, too connected, to focus on one medium. One American broadcaster is hoping to reverse that trend or at the very least hold the attention of it’s viewers longer.


Comedy Central have started to use bespoke two-and-half minute ‘“linear commercial pod” once a month.’ They are running this trial to try to improve the percentage of adverts being fully, or partially, viewed. Comedy Central believe that branded content which tells an engaging story will keep viewers watching, with many not even really appreciating it is an advert break.  “If Comedy Central can produce ads that are genuinely funny and shareable, they’ll be able to get reach and engagement—the two primary KPIs of any ad campaign,” said Kevin Delie, the director of publisher development at TripleLift, a software platform for native programmatic ads. “For brands, this means the campaign gets attention, which is everything. For the network, they may be able to save TV revenue that is at risk.”

The development specifically of better content aired during the ad breaks is to retain viewer attention. But the challenge will be ensuring it is engaging enough to do so.

“Just a few short years ago, TV viewers didn’t have the option of pulling out their mobile device and engaging on social media and email,” Blake Davis, the founder and CEO of Long Drive Agency, said. “Commercials need to be more engaging, whether that means the network is producing their own commercials with the familiar faces of network stars, or creating more personalized content. Either way, if the content is quality, viewers will watch.”


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There is a precedent for seeing short form creative ideas develop and evolve, with both Broad City (an American comedy series initially developed as a web series) and Flight of the Conchords (a New Zealand based comedy band, initially a radio series before transferring to TV)being two examples that branded content could follow. If it is creative, creates a lot of noice, seeing a branded content spot expanded to a show in its own right is entirely possible. In a recent article we examined Taco Bell’s foray into branded content marketing, with the creation of Taco Tales – short videos telling customer stories on YouTube. To go from that, to putting similar content on actual television is not such a leap as people might first think.

“It’s not different than the lens we need to put on ourselves as human beings. What’s the authentic expression of yourself that gets people to want to engage? It’s the same thing for brands — finding the authenticity within the brand’s persona. We still believe in TV. Our brand is mass, but I like to tell deeper stories too and engage in fun ways. The challenge is how to do the whole thing. That’s made the job of a marketer harder,” says Marisa Thalberg, Chief Marketing Officer at Taco Bell. Taking that desire expressed above, of wanting to create more authentic content to engage people with, Chris Ficarra, EVP of integrated marketing at Viacom Velocity, told Adweek, “I’d love to see a day—whether it be show premieres or tentpoles—where we’re creating content that’s really seamless and organic to the show and can take fans from break to break”.


What Ficarra is suggesting must be considered the next organic development in branded content. A combination of branded content for both TV shows and adverts would allow organisations to be creative on two fronts and to maintain audience engagement throughout the entire televised slot. Based on audience insight brands will need to extend their creativity and reach ,making better use of the content streams available to them.