Peripheral immersion

Brands need to focus on apps, events and the second screen generation, says Ben Wallace.


Sponsored by drpgroup

How many screens do you use on a daily basis? Take the time and do a tally. The television in the morning, Kindle on the commute to work, iPad in your meeting and chained to the Mac or laptop for the rest of the afternoon. You probably use more than one at a time right? On average, we now view at least seven per day. 

Whether you know it or not, you are a second screener, and so are your clients. We are becoming increasingly proficient in dual-wielding our devices, so much so that the interplay between them has become second nature.  

This has an attractive and immediate business use for those of us in the digital agency world, even more so when utilised during events. 

A great number of events, exhibitions and conferences are immense in scale, with multimillion pound sets and staging, impressive keynote speakers and throngs of delegates, clients or customers – and sometimes all three. 

When we bring these people together, no matter how good the speaker, the projection or the screen, some people will feel missed out, disengaged and unmoved by the event.

It is a game of scale, and most companies would judge an event to be a success if they gain about 70 to 80 per cent engagement. That is not just listening, clapping and making the right noises at the right time – it means really getting involved and being inspired to engage with the production.  

How do we engage everyone?

We can, by the tricks, strategies and abilities of our trade, engage large numbers of people and we do it every week of the year. However, as you saw with the second screeners – the game has changed. 

While engaging with a speaker, a presentation or a screen, we can feel comfortable as digital professionals in encouraging the use of ‘personalised’ second screen functionality which will not be detrimental to the main thrust of content. By the use of apps, voting platforms, delegate-information platforms et al, we can make each and every user feel included as part of the event, address them directly, allow them all to contribute if they so wish and track their engagement for a post-event review.

We value the information that we construct and verify. A mobile device, be it a tablet, phone or even a smart watch, is a portal to contribute to an event and receive information that is targeted to the user. 

When user X at a company’s annual sales conference mails the keynote speaker the question, “What about Penzance?”, that submission can be assessed for its relevance and sent live to that very speaker to address if they wish to. 

When that question is addressed, and done so live, it not only pleases the sender but every individual in the room, in the knowledge that their views are important and can be included in the event. 

The second screen generation expects the ability to bridge technologically to the event, in the same way that every user expects a  reasonable level of interplay between two or more devices for the same content. 

For example, if user X is watching something on BBC iPlayer and he wants to know more about the cast and ‘making of’, he might use his Android device and second screen this information – enhancing and enriching his experience.  

Create a world of content to be immersed in

Whether client, customer or otherwise – as companies, organisations and brands – content should be a world for our target consumers to be immersed in. 

We want them to feel there is a rich backdrop, culture and purpose in what we do and as such we provide many layers for them to engage
with – via video, web, events, social media and advertising. 

Any event is an entity. True, it is an extension of an existing brand and message, but as a rule, each one has its own purpose, background and approach. To many sceptical audiences, a five-hour conference full of strong messaging, on-brand video and a great app may well be fantastic – but where is its legacy? Is this just a flash in the pan? 

Personalised apps and voting platforms can help engage audiences and delegates at large events

By working for the second screen audience, you can make any event culture tangible. Audiences can, to their hearts’ content, find out more, satisfy their curiosity and get involved in a myriad of ways. 

How to support the second screener

Interest is often a hard-won commodity for any event or, indeed, app, video or website – and as such we need to seamlessly facilitate the second screener into acting as naturally as possible in the event environment. 

This is ultimately giving the user choice. Second screening is the freedom to access and look deeper into content and elect to become more engaged than previously possible.

It should never be a gimmick akin to ‘look at the screen, now at your iPad, now back to screen’. 

It should at all junctures feel a natural choice, available yet not forced – that is the best way to build true engagement in a digitally complex audience.  

Test, test and test 

Most importantly, as in all areas of digital, you must test out the theory. 

You will naturally make mistakes, such as by focusing too much on one device or function, or valuing one aspect over the other. 

The most effective way for a brand to test this is by truly understanding its audience by undertaking a communications audit pre- and post-event. 

We call it pulse check, but in all aspects it must ascertain what the user wants to hear – and once you know that, you can use second screening to marry this to what clients want to say.

Agencies are the facilitators of your message, and although they may help to develop it, their talent lies in embedding that message in your delegates’ psychology and, as an extension, part of their everyday working lives. 

By aligning your message, the medium and the motive, you can create communications that are worth caring about – one screen, two screens or none.

Ben Wallace
Director of digital media 

56 Shorts Gardens
Covent Garden 

T: 020 7937 8057



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