Mobile is no longer the second screen



Another Super Bowl Sunday has come and gone, and in addition to the Baltimore Ravens, this year's winners include halftime headliner Beyoncé, commercial fan-favorite Budweiser and mobile. Analytics firm Flurry reports a 19 percent increase in app activity from last year's Super Bowl to this year's tilt, adding that total app usage dropped in aggregate by only 5 percent from the Sunday prior to Super Bowl Sunday--a strong indication that not even the biggest sporting event of the calendar year can curb America's app appetite.

Flurry adds that app sessions did not vary significantly between game action and commercial breaks, although session starts did plummet 10 percent during Beyoncé's eye-popping performance. Conversely, app sessions jumped 18 percent during the now-infamous 34-minute Superdome power outage, suggesting consumers turned from the TV to their mobile screen once the gridiron momentum ground to a halt. "Ratings from Nielsen confirm that people continue to sit in front of TVs on Super Bowl Sunday," wrote Flurry Director of Industry Insights & Analysis Mary Ellen Gordon. "However, the fact that overall app usage declined by less than just 5 percent compared to same time period on the prior Sunday suggests that a large amount of consumers' attention is spent in apps, even as they sit in front of the TV."

Flurry argues that TV--not mobile--is now the second screen. I'd take it a step further and contend we should dismiss the concept of ranking screen importance altogether. There is no first screen or second screen: Each screen is equally vital to the connected consumer experience, each has its time and place, and relative values can fluctuate in a matter of moments. When Beyoncé's on, TV is the first screen. When the Superdome lights go out and the game is in limbo, mobile is the first screen, and when play resumes, TV again grabs the spotlight. And don't forget that some football fans turned away from both screens on Super Bowl Sunday: More than 3 million unique viewers tuned in to's live Web stream, up 43 percent from a year ago.

But the end of screen primacy poses massive challenges for advertisers who can no longer guarantee where the eyeballs are going to be from one moment to the next. Thirty-second Super Bowl ads cost $3.8 million this year; Flurry believes advertisers should question paying that kind of king's ransom when the network telecast is no longer the only game in town. "For example, overall app usage by Moms, during the time the Super Bowl was on, dropped by less than two percent compared to the previous week," Gordon notes. "While Tide's 'Miracle Stain' ad was certainly entertaining, it appears that the 'Mom' target market was not paying attention." Oreo aired a well-received "Cookie vs. Creme" spot during the Super Bowl telecast, but when the power went out, agency partner 360i leaped into action, posting a Twitter ad reading "Power Out? No Problem," accompanied by a photo of a cookie with the tagline "You can still dunk in the dark." In a matter of minutes, the impromptu promotion was retweeted more than 15,000 times and earned more than 20,000 Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) likes.

The Oreo tweet arguably generated more publicity and watercooler conversation than the primetime commercial, which underlines Twitter's increasing importance as a promotional platform. Savvy marketers are making the multi-screen paradigm work for them, not against them: Twitter states that roughly half of all national broadcast ads aired during the Super Bowl incorporated a hashtag, up from one in five last year. Now it's time for Twitter to start monetizing that activity: This week, the microblogging giant acquired social TV analytics firm Bluefin Labs, which supplies data tracking products and services to brand advertisers, agencies and television networks.

"We believe that Bluefin's data science capabilities and social TV expertise will help us create innovative new ad products and consumer experiences in the exciting intersection of Twitter and TV," said Twitter COO Ali Rowghani, adding the deal builds on the company's exclusive partnership with Nielsen to develop the Twitter TV Rating, which will provide industry-standard metrics tracking Twitter usage in relation to broadcast viewership. Twitter doesn't see first screens and second screens, either--all it sees is one big moneymaking opportunity.--Jason