Open on a 21st-century family room.

An evening some weeks ago, I looked up from checking my work email to realize that all of my family members were busy on their own electronic devices. My wife was group texting friends on her phone, my 13-year -old son was playing Clash of Clans on his phone and my 10-year -old daughter was wearing headphones and exploring YouTube on our iPad.

While not unusual these days, what struck me as most interesting was the fact that we all convened in the living room to watch TV. Indeed, the television was on. And occasionally we would each look up at it in turn, only to return to the real focus of our attention on our personal screens.

This is by no means a depressing scene. There was still plenty of conversation between us – “Listen to what Amy said…” “Dad, watch this video I found…” ” Do you want to play Draw Something?” In fact, there was more family conversation than when I was growing up in the 1970s and 80s when we’d zone out in front of the TV.

Referring to the personal devices we all carry – the devices that allow us to connect with each other in meaningful ways – as the “second screen” is evidence of an advertising industry that does not understand the role of those devices in our lives.

But where does this modern focus on personal screens leave TV advertisers?

The Captive Audience Isn’t As Captivated

When I was growing up, if my family was in front of a television, we would watch everything it chose to show us, including commercials. Sure, we complained or made fun of the commercials more often than not, but we watched them.

Fast-forward to the TiVo and the ubiquity of digital video recorders. A threat to traditional advertising for sure, but still the recorded ads were being seen at least in part by a viewer actively engaged with the TV.

Today, however, humble television ads face a much bigger issue as potential viewers simply choose to ignore them in favor of other, more engaging more engaging activities.

Ad Evolution

Since our beginning, we have been social animals, so it is no surprise Facebook and messaging apps take up most of our phone time. The move away from focused TV viewing is most likely a good thing, allowing us to better balance our needs, from listening and observing to telling and creating. But it doesn’t mean advertisers should give up on what is still the largest mass-reach vehicle available. On the contrary, it’s time TV ads evolve with us.

Made You Look

How do you get someone to turn their attention away from their phone to the large screen? Sound. Specifically, interesting sound effects and standout music.

When it comes to music, subtle and unobtrusive scores make it challenging to get attention. Even during a live-viewing event like the Super Bowl, ads have to compete with the seven-layer bean dip and the collie who wants a belly rub. However, bold and different music can grab the viewer’s attention.

For example, in the 2016 Budweiser Super Bowl ad, “Not Backing Down,” the hip, testosterone-fueled soundtrack pulls the viewer into an ad that then delivers its message with simple text on screen.

Spoiler Alert! This is a Commercial

Have you ever explained a brilliant TV ad to someone, but not been able to remember who or what the ad was for? That’s usually about the time you start to realize; maybe the ad wasn’t actually so brilliant.

It’s crucial for advertisers to visually brand their TV ads at the moments a potential viewer is most likely to look up from their phone and definitely not just at the very end as is TV tradition. Think classic Corona ads.

As an added bonus to this approach, good branding on a fast-forwarded TV ad can mean the difference between meaningless glimpses of irrelevant scenes and an actual brand impression.

Make Use Of The Biggest Screen In The Room

The “second screen” is most definitely first and it is up to us as advertisers to use the television screen to our advantage. Television ads need to evolve with the times by drawing attention away from the smaller screens while delivering the right message, sometimes in mere seconds.