With 75 – 85% of viewers using second screen devices while they watched TV in 2012 and a growing percentage of viewers watching TV in a non-linear fashion, advertisers are understandably concerned that eyeballs are moving away from their content. Gone are the days where we have to sit through ad breaks waiting for our favourite show to come back on; instead, we’re either fast forwarding through the commercials, or turning to our phone or tablet to keep us occupied while the ads – and of course, the shows themselves – run.

While the impact of these two trends should act as a wake-up call to the advertising industry as they’re threatening the effectiveness of an age-old revenue stream, the flipside is that they offer a massive opportunity for creative brands.

Second screen technologies have, of course, been around for a couple of years, and some – including myself! – heralded 2012 as the year of the second screen. But for many people, second screen means Twitter or Facebook. In fact, a recent Twitter study showed 60% of the network’s users tweet while watching different shows, with 80% of them accessing the discussion via their mobile devices.

2013, however, will be the year of the second screen app. Brands and TV programmes across the globe are developing and launching companion mobile apps, which aim to increase the audience engagement by adding extra dimensions, such as the ability to access exclusive content or play along at home – even in the ad breaks – but also give a deep insight into the audience. These apps are transforming the way traditional TV programmes are consumed. New shows are being built around social engagement, and age-old shows such as the Antiques Roadshow are creating their own apps to harness the power of second-screen.

We saw – and were involved in – some really innovative programming in the UK and across Europe, of which Channel 4’s Facejacker app was just one example. The broadcaster was the UK’s first terrestrial channel to launch an app that allows users to unlock exclusive subject matter. Using audio watermarking, viewers could enable the app to ‘listen in’ on episodes of Facejacker and gain access to bonus content including additional ringtones, ‘Facejack Booth’ masks and up to 30 minutes of unseen clips and behind-the-scenes video.

But how can this help advertisers? The answer is twofold. Firstly, by making the adverts part of the second screen experience. SBS in Belgium has managed to do this extremely effectively, with its long-running TV show ‘The Smartest Person in the World’. To encourage people to keep watching the ads, the broadcaster launched ‘The Fastest Quiz in the World’ – a game that ran throughout the commercial break and challenged viewers to answer a set of questions in the fastest time, with answers captured in the companion app. Rather than nipping off to make a cup of tea, checking their emails or Facebooking their friends in the ad break, over 130,000 viewers who’d downloaded the app were glued to the screen watching out for the questions which appeared in between the ads. What made it work so well was the pin-point syncing with app and the fact it worked no matter when the viewer was watching.

The second reason is the massive potential for audience insight that second screen can deliver – particularly audio watermarked content. Today, broadcasters, rather than TV programmes, are able to continually encode their entire output, meaning it can sync constantly with broadcaster-developed apps on viewers’ mobile devices. Whether consumed live or on catch-up, the codes can be picked up by the apps on viewers’ smartphones or tablets, meaning broadcasters can gain a detailed understanding of consumption patterns of their shows at any time. The codes also empower broadcasters to develop compelling additional content, such as access to exclusive content, play-along games and loyalty rewards.

So, the potential is there for second screen technologies to create genuinely novel experiences which engage viewers like never before, while delivering actionable, insightful data and rejuvenating TV advertising. With this in mind, I can’t wait to see what’s coming later this year.