Second screening is a fact of life in our new mobile-enhanced world. Regardless of how interesting a TV show might be, viewers will always turn to their phone to check messages, share their thoughts via Twitter, or just aimlessly browse Instagram.

As with all changes in consumer behaviour, marketers are falling over themselves to find a way of injecting their brand messages into the second-screen experience.

It’s easy to see the attraction, as in theory smartphones allow brands to deliver a more in-depth and engaging experience to enhance their TV campaigns. 

Our own Ben Davis has already gone on record to register his doubts over whether marketers will ever achieve any success with the second screen, however a new report from Millward Brown shows why brands won’t stop experimenting with this channel any time soon.

The AdReaction 2014 study found that TV is still the most popular device among UK ‘multiscreeners’, with people using it for 148 minutes per day. This was closely followed by smartphones at 111 minutes.

Laptops and tablets clocked up 97 minutes and 55 minutes per day respectively.

The rise of multiscreening means that on average people in the UK spend 50 minutes per day using both a TV and a smartphone, so it would seem that there’s a lot of potential to use the second-screen as part of a multichannel ad campaign.

However, the study also found that only a quarter (24%) of the time spent multiscreening involves looking at related content, which the report refers to as ‘meshing’.

This obviously means that 76% of simultaneous use is spent looking at unrelated content. So basically people are using their smartphones to look at things that have nothing to do with what’s on TV.


With relatively little time spent using a second screen to access content related to the first screen it’s easy to see why Ben Davis is so sceptical of its potential for marketing.

The Millward Brown study shows that time spent ‘meshing’ is predominately taken up with search (22%) as people look for more information about what they’re watching (e.g. sports scores or actor bios).

A further 15% user the second screen to discuss what they’re watching via social, while just 9% use it to follow up on a TV ad.

Reasons for meshing

As a result then, the report really underlines what most of us suspected anyway, namely that Google and Twitter stand to be the main beneficiaries of second screening.

If advertisers really want to take advantage of second screening then an effective mobile search strategy and investment in Twitter ads need to be a high priority.

For more information on this topic, read our posts looking more closely at Twitter's relationship with TV and highlighting some best practice for marketers.

Millward Brown’s AdReaction study surveyed, via smartphone or tablet, more than 12,000 16-44 year old multiscreen users across 30 countries. 

Multiscreen users were defined as people who own, or have access to, a TV and a smartphone and/or a tablet. You can view the full AdReaction report here.

David Moth

Published 18 March, 2014 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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Comments (4)

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

Not sure about the name "second-screener" because my partner and I have 8 (eight) screens between us - many of them her phones. I think this will become more and more typical.

But my main observation is that we "second screen" much more when a TV program is bad, compared to when it's good. So there's an unfortunate lesson for marketers - don't sponsor programming that's too good because your audience will be engrossed.

over 4 years ago


David Lines

'AdReaction 2014 study found . . . people using [TV] for 148 minutes per day.

That's nearly 2.5 hours per day! This study must have focused on a rather down-market audience -- people who have time to watch TV for an average of 2.5 hours per day.

over 4 years ago

David Moth

David Moth, Managing Editor at Barclaycard

@David, that's a slightly harsh comment. It is an average after all, and I would think that most people watch more than 2.5 hours a day on weekends, particularly if you take into account sports, movies and any kids shows that parents are forced to watch.

over 4 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

@David They are doing other stuff too, not just watching TV, which is the point of the article.

over 4 years ago

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