TV as the Second Screen: The Best Old New Way to Acquire Mobile Gamers

By Thomas Sommer | September 24th, 2014

Television commercials, billboards, and magazine ads are the “must haves” when advertising traditional products. They have been around for years and will continue to be a staple in most companies’ advertising budgets. This fact, however, does not seem to apply for mobile game developers. Mobile games are anything but traditional and mobile game developers looking to acquire users have, until now, mostly stuck to advertising on mobile devices. Even though digital advertising is estimated to reach $47.8 billion in 2014, TV advertising will also keep on increasing up to $68.54 billion, with no sign of slowing down anytime soon.Times are changing: both traditional and mobile companies are starting to embrace the second screen.

The Second Screen

The second screen is a concept usually referring to a companion device, whether it is a phone or tablet, while watching TV. Instead of competing against smart devices, TV networks have embraced the second screen and developed apps that will enhance what they’re viewing on TV. Nowadays, just like TV networks, mobile game developers can benefit from a second screen too. In their case however, the second screen is the TV screen, which they can use to acquire new users for their primary device, the mobile phone.

Companies such as King, Supercell, and Big Fish are already beginning to embrace the other “second screen.” Let’s see why.

The time is right

second screen average time

According to a recent report by eMarketer, Americans spend roughly 11 hours of the day using major media, which include TV, Radio, Digital, Print and Other. When you take a closer look at the report, and within these 11 hours, Americans spend more than 5 hours a day on a digital device. It remains unclear whether the time spent is done while watching the latest episode of Game of Thrones on HBO GO or Candy Crushing it. Nonetheless, it is the first time that digital device consumption has surpassed TV, although not by much. Now is the perfect time to capitalize on this shift of attention.

As TV is still a prominent outlet, it’s important to understand why mobile game developers should be thinking about advertising on it as the second screen. There are indeed many benefits of running a TV commercial outside of simply acquiring more users for your game.

In a traditional mobile ad, the message is clear (“Free” and “Play Now!”) but the real estate of the ad unit does not allow for more explanations and value statements. With a TV ad, you can say much more. Within 30 seconds of a commercial, you can take a viewer on a journey of why they need to download, play, and (hopefully) monetize in a game.

There are 2 approaches to TV campaigns: performance oriented or branding. Performance-oriented approaches have clear Call-to-Actions (CTA) in the commercial and make up the majority of commercials for mobile game developers. This final scene in the Farm Heroes Saga has a clear CTA and even screenshots of the game on a tablet and a phone.

second screen farm heroes

An example of the branding approach is typically the iPhone commercials. Apple simply focuses the commercial on features of the product and there is no clear CTA at the end; just the Apple logo. From our experience, the performance oriented approach typically generates more downloads than a simple branding approach.

The facts are here: through TV ads, you are able to reach a much larger and broader group for your game than any single mobile ad could ever dream of. Depending when the ad is displayed, you can benefit from thousands, if not millions, of eyes on your game, your company, and your brand. The effectiveness of overall general branding through TV campaigns will be stronger than the typical banner interstitial ad.

TV as the second screen: Does it work?

Running TV commercials for mobile games is old news in Japan. For years, Japanese gaming giants GREE and DeNA have regularly promoted their games on Japanese TV stations. These constant TV commercials helped catapult GREE and DeNA into household names.

This rise to fame in Japan has caught the attention of other successful studios. Last year, Colopi, GungHo, and King all began running TV commercials in Japan in hopes of gaining market share. Before Colopi started running TV campaigns, their game “Quiz RPG: World Of Mystic Wiz” had roughly 3 million users. Just 3 months after they began running commercials, the game had a total of 14 million users. GungHo also saw their largest growth in users after running TV commercials in Japan.

The trend has also already started in America, with the likes of King, Supercell, and Big Fish Casino running ads for “Farm Heroes Saga,” “Clash of Clans,” and “Big Fish Casino” respectively.

According to an App Annie report from February 2014, all 3 companies saw a gain in rankings after their commercials aired. Although difficult to specifically attribute that rise only to the commercials, but the evidence is clear, TV commercials are working.

How can you track second screen campaigns?

Performance campaigns on TV sound great, but how can you track the attribution of the downloads delivered? How can you possibly measure ROI for a TV commercial? For traditional banner ads in a mobile app, you would simply create a tracking link that will be used to measure the effectiveness of a traffic source. These tracking links can see how many times that ad has been clicked, how many clicks converted into installs, and who clicked on it. Unfortunately, this method won’t work for TV ads focused on driving downloads. Think about it, how esthetically pleasing would it be to type in “http://developername.trackingcompany.com/mobilegame/id_123j019r019” into your phone? Fortunately, there are a couple of approaches in trying to track downloads.

If you go for the performance oriented approach, you can track downloads in 2 different ways: standard and SMS. The standard approach is the most common because the experience in downloading a game for the viewer is the exact same as if they organically downloaded the game. At the end of the commercial, the CTA is clear, ‘Visit the App Store and Download Now!’.
Using the Delta Approach Method, you can attribute the increase in downloads to your commercial when using the standard approach. The Delta Approach is the following: first, look at the average amount of organic downloads you receive without a TV commercial and consider it your baseline. Then, measure the uptick in downloads immediately following the TV commercial and subtract your average. The delta is the number you can attribute to the TV commercial. (click here to learn more about it)
The SMS approach is easier. At the end of a commercial, the CTA is clear, ‘Send a text to #### and receive a download link’. It will provide better look at the number of downloads but still rarely used. For instance, this Dragon World TV commercial by Social Quantum uses the SMS approach to track its installations.

The idea that a viewer has to do an extra step to download a game isn’t the best user experience. Also, there is no guarantee that they didn’t just search the game in the App Store. For this reason the Delta Approach is probably the best way to determine how effective your TV ad is doing.

So what's the next step in leveraging TV as the second screen?

Advertising on TV is just another way to get your game out there but it has similar challenges as mobile. Who is my target audience and how can I acquire high quality users? Depending on the audience a certain channel can reach, monetization can indeed be higher. For example, paid cable channels have a higher income and generally more tech savvy audience, hence, the likelihood of good quality is higher. This illustrates one of the challenges, where is the perfect spot? You’ve probably faced this challenge before when evaluating all the different traffic sources, or channels.

So, don’t go running to move your marketing budget to only TV commercials. Do take the time to understand that TV commercials are a multifaceted marketing beast that addresses not only user acquisition but also brand awareness. Yes, TV ads are more expensive to run and do have a higher CPI, but the reach is bigger than any mobile ad.

Interested in running TV campaigns for your mobile game? Speak to us, and our TV team will take care of the rest!

Thomas Sommer
Thomas heads up content marketing at AppLift. As such he’s in charge of sourcing, curating, creating and distributing insightful content to increase visibility and thought leadership for the company. Thomas loves to scrutinize the relentless and trilling developments of the mobile industry. You can follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Thomas