As we all know, a growing majority of consumers are spending time watching TV alongside a second screen device, be it their mobile phone, tablet, or computer. This common consumer behavior presents a serious challenge for advertisers using TV to reach an attentive audience. While commercials air on live TV, viewers are turning to their secondary device to occupy their time during commercial breaks. Your audience may be watching TV during your commercial and at the same time have their attention fixated on a completely different content serving device.

Fortunately advertisers now have the opportunity to combine their TV campaigns with simultaneous mobile and desktop campaign targeting. New technology first introduced in the Netherlands, the UK and parts of Europe enables an advertiser to target a TV audience on their second screen device. Companies such as Xaxis, MediaSynced and wywy are able to serve online ads in real time to an audience that has been exposed to a specific TV commercial, ultimately reaching audiences at both touch points.

The Xaxis Sync program, for example, re-targets a brand’s TV message on mobile and desktop devices in real time upon the airing of a commercial. The program is able to serve ads online anywhere from 30 seconds to ten minutes from the time that the commercial aired on TV. Xasis’s describes its technology as such, “our advanced algorithms analyze the audio waveform of the TV spot and then assign an unique identifier/fingerprint to each one. This way, the TV commercial is recognized in real-time upon airing.”

Through a series of databases, the Xaxis Sync program is able to predict which TV viewers are most likely to be exposed to a TV commercial. By combining and analyzing behavioral (Kantar Media), geographical and home wifi data, the system determines specific online audiences to target during an advertiser’s commercial airing.

This process for identifying TV viewers that are using a second screen device is not, however, exact. The program uses an educated projection of a specific audience’s behavioral pattern to target users on second screen devices. There is however, room to believe that as the necessity for cross-platform targeting continues to grow and the technology evolves, this process will eventually become infallible.

MediaSynced uses a similar approach to sync second screen online ads with on-air TV commercials. Available only in the European market, their network inventory includes MSN, Yahoo, Bing, Facebook and Twitter and more. Their service extends to sync online ads with radio campaigns as well.

Wywy offers their “LiveSync “program to serve ads in real-time with live TV commercials as well as  the “SiteSync” program which connects an advertiser’s website with their  TV schedule where featured products, promotions or services are prominently displayed while the TV campaign is live. In addition, wywy integrates real-time TV data into existing Web analytics to enable advertisers to measure the impact of TV commercials with their website’s KPIs.

Even in the beginning stages, these programs provide many opportunities for advertisers to reach consumers with a cross-platform strategy. Depending on the scope of the online network at hand, this technology can target second screen audiences based on demographics, geography, and web behavior.  This type of digital campaign can also be used to target a competitor’s audience by synching online ads to run against a competitor’s commercial schedule.

Adding a second screen digital component to a TV campaign is also an effective way to increase the overall performance of a TV campaign for a lower cost, with CPMs between $5-$10. Rather than adding dollars to a spot schedule, a small piece of a budget can be allocated to reaching your TV audience via online/mobile devices. Using multiple platforms in tandem increases the likelihood that your message is seen, whether on the TV or on another device, or possibly on both.

As television viewing continues to evolve, as does the strategy and technology necessary to capture viewers. TV ads are simply unable to deliver to a captive audience as they once could. Therefore it is essential that consumers are reached at multiple touch points during their viewing experience. With the challenges brought by today’s TV viewing habits, cross-platform targeting has come to the forefront of media strategies.