Cougar Town and Target: Monetizing the Second Screen

A recent survey by found that millennials spend 18 hours per day engaging with media, and often use multiple devices at once. Oftentimes this is in the form of watching TV while playing on tablets or texting on smartphones.

In the past few years, many TV shows have tried to tap into this multitasking, but only recently have started using “second screen” as a buzzword for it. At first, brands fell in love with Twitter. Survivor’s Jeff Probst has been live tweeting shows for multiple seasons now, and ABC shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Revenge choose a different cast member each week to comment and answer questions during both the east and west coast airings.

Now, shows are evolving. As more and more viewers have alternate screens in front of them, the calls to action are directing viewers to websites for increased interaction. Two of the most notable of these are Modern Family and The Walking Dead.

Modern Family was recently syndicated and now airs throughout the day on multiple channels. The USA Network airs a marathon of the shows every Saturday night and hosts a “modern family game night.” Users visit a microsite and take polls and quizzes as they watch each episode, and the winners appear on screen at the end of the night. Instead of flipping channels during the ads or having the TV on in the background, “game night” is meant to keep viewers engaged and in one place.

modernfamilyduelAMC is trying to encourage fans to watch The Walking Dead right when it airs with their with their “story sync” instead of streaming the episode online later. During new episodes, the second screen shows trivia, facts about filming, and polls. During the commercial breaks, viewers can watch extended screens and see other exclusive content. AMC receives more ad money because of higher premier viewership.

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Advertisers Want a Piece of the (Second) Pie

While the above ideas are great ways to engage audiences, and I’m sure they have all kinds of metrics and data to prove profitability, they’re just not as concrete as some executives would like. At the same time, brands outside of the television industry are trying to find ways to incorporate their names into this new second screen fad. After all, if viewers and engaging in bonus content while watching a show, wouldn’t it be great if the ads on the microsites matched the ones on TV?  If only there was a way to please both parties…

Last night’s Cougar Town brought product placement to the next level with Target products placed strategically around the set. Viewers could enjoy the show on their main screens, and then see which products were available for purchase on their second ones.

The Consumerist caught a screenshot of a promo video for the episode, which featured red plus signs all over the available products. If you were interested in buying the product, or even learning more about it, you click on the plus sign on your second screen and are directed to Target’s website.

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Measuring Conversions Just Got Easier

In the next few days, TBS and Target will be able to measure the success of this campaign with the following conversions:

  • Traffic to the second screen microsite and time spent on site
  • Engagement in polls, questions, and exclusive content
  • Traffic to the Target product pages from the Cougar Town site
  • Actual purchases of the featured Target products

Instead of Target buying ad space and setting up product placements to gain exposure, the company will be able to walk away with concrete data about how much money it made and the quantity of each product sold.

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One Long Target Native Ad

According to the New York Times, a scene of the episode actually takes place at Target and a subplot focuses on decorating the apartment. This makes the products the focus of the show and gives Target more exposure. In actuality, this episode was one long ad for Target.

Unlike Chipotle, which is trying to get Hulu users to watch content created to advertise its brand with a six episode series called Farmed and Dangerous, Target set out to get exposure from characters that viewers already love. Die hard Cougar Town fans will sit through this glorified ad because they love the show and this episode moves the plot forward. They don’t mind the advertising because the content is good.

That’s really the whole basis behind native advertising. The consumer is aware that they are watching an ad, but they’re okay with it because the content is engaging and high quality. It’s the type of content that they would otherwise be watching on that platform.

About the author

Amanda Dodge