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Attention Brand Marketers, Shiny Object Alert

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A few years ago, crowdsourcing was the shiny new toy in the marketing arsenal. All it took was a couple of success stories and soon every brand wanted to let people design the next product, shoot the next ad or choose the flavor of their next potato chip. In a development that came as no surprise to many of us who do this for a living, the results were usually awful, occasionally OK and rarely what one would consider good.

Of course no one learned the lessons, so when gamification came down the pike, brands once again jumped in and threw all kinds of badges, leaderboards and points at people without really understanding how it worked, why it worked or what would really be interesting, fun or valuable.

Now up steps 2nd Screen, promising to deliver the engaged consumer who is looking for more information related to the content they are viewing. As this industry quickly grows, hundreds of apps, tools and platforms are popping up and brands are eager to get involved. That's a good thing, as the infusion of money that brands bring will help drive technological innovation but, as we all know, those who ignore the past are doomed to repeat it.

How will we avoid the potentially fatal equation of: interesting opportunity + eager marketers - practical understanding = poor user experience?

That's the role of the 2nd Screen Society. With the stated aim of being "the industry resource for 2nd screen services, standards and ideas, bringing television and online advertising together for the viewer," S3 hopes to ensure that the already thriving 2nd Screen ecosystem doesn't implode from heightened expectations and unrealized returns.

As the chairperson for the advertising subcommittee of the 2nd Screen Society, I was in the position of moderating a panel on Monday at Advertising Week titled, "The Imminent Power of 2nd Screen Consumer Engagement." The panel members included representatives from Ogilvy & Mather, GroupM, Xbox, MLB.com and 2nd Screen app developer Magic Ruby. It was a lively discussion, and for me a key take-away was the importance of having all these stakeholders in the room together. Creatives, media buyers, platform and content providers and, of course, the app developers all have their own agendas and if they are not aligned, everyone, most especially the viewers, will lose.

However, if those involved with the marketing function can speak directly and honestly with the app developers, then we have a better chance of selling the idea to our clients, and making a more engaging experience for the viewer. The primary discussion has to be focused not on what 2nd Screen creative can do for the brand, but rather what it can do for the viewer. Interruptions on the 2nd screen, whether tablet or phone or laptop, will be just as unwelcome as interruptions on the 1st screen have become, and will be avoided, skipped or ignored accordingly. But I'm bullish on 2nd Screen for the same reason I was, and still am, bullish about gamification: When done properly, by people who know what they are doing, it can be a tremendously positive experience for a consumer -- and for a brand.

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