From Gogglebox to Googlebox: Understanding TV Triggers for Mobile Search

Watching TV with a mobile in your hand is what marketers have commonly referred to as 'second screening'. We like to think of it more as second nature, writes Tom Smith, head of biddable media, mporium. Whether you’re trying to untangle your Ethelreds from the Ethelbergs in The Last Kingdom, or leaping to text vote for this year’s top act on Britain’s Got Talent, mobiles rarely leave our hands when we’re parked in front of the box.

Google’s Consumer Barometer Report found that three-quarters of people in the UK use a smartphone and the average person uses 3.3 connected devices regularly. A similar number use their phones while watching TV, but among under-25s that rises to 93%. This presents marketers with a massive opportunity.

Consumers aren’t just checking their historical facts, they’re checking out a character’s natty suit, following up a new ingredient from Masterchef, or being inspired by some 'fun-in-the-sun'-based drama. There are direct links between specific programmes and customers’ mobile search behaviour.

Take the ITV sitcom, Benidorm, for example. Tracking online behaviour, we noticed a spike in searches for ‘Benidorm holidays’ and ‘Benidorm flights’, as well as broader terms such as ‘low-cost holidays’ and ‘beach’ while the programme was being aired on TV.

So, the first step marketers should be taking is to study consumer search behaviour and find out what the triggers are. Don’t make assumptions – travel programmes will be natural search breeding grounds for travel brands, but what about beauty programmes for topics such as ‘getting beach body ready’, documentaries like Simon Reeve’s Columbia and even the weather forecast – ‘summer in the UK will be a washout (again)!’

By finding out the consumer behaviour associated with television programmes, and engagement levels before, during, and after they are aired, the contextual relevance of ads served can maximise the possible conversions.

So, for instance, if a brand wants to advertise around sports content, ads can be altered to reflect not just the usual things that go on in a football match, half-time, and so on, but also predictable, but by no means guaranteed, events such as fouls and penalties, which can further increase the conversion rate.

This is all pretty straightforward, but it still doesn’t make the most of the unique properties of the mobile platform. Scheduling search ads to coincide with regular programming is still very much a desktop mindset. Marketers are looking for, and optimising against, historical data. What needs to happen is getting real-time reactivity layered on top.

When we think of our own searching behaviour, it is remarkable how many times we pick up our phones when watching TV because a scene on screen has prompted us to look something up. For instance, if we were watching Simon Reeve’s Columbia and were interested in holidays, we are unlikely to search for 'Thomas Cook' or 'British Airways' – instead, we are more likely to search for generic terms such as 'Columbia holidays' or 'South America holidays'. However, the majority of these generic terms can be very expensive. To make using these generic terms cost-effective, brands need to understand the key moments when search demand is likely to be at its highest. If brands don’t know when those moments are, they are likely to be wasting their spend in the hope of chancing across one, at which time their spend is likely to be too low to win the bid.

The desktop approach of building on historical consumer patterns isn’t obsolete. It’s just that the dynamism of the mobile platform should be embraced to deliver paid search results that really speak to the consumer. Capturing and building on certain variables is increasingly possible due to increased access to data, automation, machine learning and even artificial intelligence. But delivering a dynamic, relevant, and personalised mobile experience is where the heart of performance paid search lies.