Our Group Commercial Director, Simon Daglish, on How TV is Growing Up, But Maybe Not As Fast As We Think...

Carat’s research proves that more and more viewers are being drawn together by spectacular ‘appointment to view’ television.

This shouldn’t come as a huge shock. Despite the gloomy predictions that TV on demand would change the world instantly for the worse, the fact is that change is much slower than we often anticipate.

Media people are not a good mirror on society in general. We quite rightly get excited by new technologies and their possibilities, and as a result we adopt new behaviours quickly, and believe that the nation does the same. Quite often it is years later, if at all, that these behaviours are commonplace across the UK and beyond.

Humans by their very nature are averse to change; people like to feel part of something greater than themselves. The effect of this is that change happens quicker where it is closely bonded with already established behaviour.

Take social media and broadcast TV. Broadcast TV plays an important role as a bonding experience rooted into our social fabric. This is further amplified by appointment to view television such as sport, entertainment or drama, which are typical bonding experiences in a real sense and significant drivers of social media.

What social media has allowed people to do is bond beyond the sofa. This is all good news for advertisers and good news for audiences, who can enjoy a richer experience.

Sporting events are unique and create must-watch moments, shared by millions across the country. The football World Cup is a much played out, but still good example. For instance, the England-Uruguay match was watched by 20 million, the largest audience since the London 2012 Olympics closing ceremony and drove massive social engagement through the broadcast.

Entertainment programmes are created to provide a universal conversation, which is then shared across social platforms. I’m A Celebrity, Britain’s Got Talent, The X Factor, and Saturday Night Takeaway all create virtual water-cooler moments on Facebook, Twitter etc. The ingredients and effects of these are hard to pinpoint or repeat, they just happen, and that is the creative genius that advertisers strive to tap into. For example, who would have imagined that when Ant and Dec sang ‘Let’s Get Ready to Rumble’, on Saturday Night Takeaway last year social media would erupt, propelling a re-release of the single to No.1, higher than the no. 9 it reached in 1994.

Gripping drama series like Broadchurch have become a key part of appointment television. Cliffhangers and plot twists mean people are compelled to watch – they don’t want to miss out, or be hit with spoilers.

For millions of people the characters and plot twists in Corrie and Emmerdale are a consistent and important part of peoples lives, and often become a focal point played out, not only on screen, but also through social media.

There’s no doubt that our audiences plan and look forward to their viewing – and second-screening has become part of their enjoyment. Carat’s research shows that 57% of people are second-screening in some way while watching linear TV. This behaviour is not new, people have always done something else while watching TV, such as ironing, a crossword or the cooking. The important difference is that, unlike these unrelated activities, second-screening relates directly back to the content, clearly opening up new opportunities for brands to create connections with viewers.

These can range from quite simple concepts; for example, Domino’s created an Ad Sync game with the X Factor, providing a fun friendly and engaging game to play in the break, it sold 24,000 pizza’s.

Then there is appointment-to-view advertising, where ads become must-see in their own right. Gary Barlow’s ad with the Compare the Market meerkats, Coronation Street and The X Factor was a great example of this; it created a Twitter storm. John Lewis has also been incredibly successful at this with their Christmas adverts. The 2013 Bear and the Hare ad was mentioned in over 49,000 tweets in the 24 hours after it was launched.

But it’s not just a matter of putting your brand across this activity. To harness the power of television and social media, the brand has to be a relevant part of the conversation. Talk Talk has successfully achieved this recently with The X Factor, by creating a conversation between the customer and the brand, and creating idents from viewers’ selfies.

But if you don’t have a connection, attempts to join the conversation can go badly wrong. Some brands tweet about BGT or The X Factor when they have no connection with it, and this runs the risk of alienating their audience. They think they can butt into the conversation but they simply become irrelevant and annoying.

Social media conversations are not for every brand; even when harnessing the relationship the consumer has with a programme. We are getting better at it, but the good examples are still too few. To get it right takes time and effort and an enormous amount of skill. Butting into a social conversation can be as annoying as the ‘know it all’ in the pub, who just doesn’t shut up.