Wake-Up: A Screen Is A Screen Is A Screen!

According to recent research from the Nielsen Three Screen Report ("More Looks, More Screens"), consumers are viewing vast amounts of video across multiple screens: televisions, computers, and mobile phones. Surprised?

The research is simply catching up to what consumers already know: It's all a screen (movie screen, television screen, computer screen, mobile phone screen). Consumers will take their content on any screen that is readily available. Just ask any parent ... why do you think they coined the term "screen time" in the first place?

The real story is the speed of convergence, that the lines between various screen platforms are dissipating at the speed of broadband and 3G+. And, to compound matters, marketers are painfully slow to realize this phenomenon. Many, who still impose artificial lines on screens by treating marketing content as "separate and discreet," are building dangerous walls around brand messaging.



I am not suggesting that the brand's television commercial belongs on every screen, either! A mouse is nothing more than a TiVo remote on steroids. Consumers will gladly click the "X" and make the spot go away. Rather, screen convergence requires a new breed of creative "idea" that is not labeled by medium; but instead is labeled by its sheer brilliance. How can we get there?

We first need to understand what the data truly mean from a media planning standpoint. Not so long ago, a multi-media mix was required to deliver mass reach across a broad demographic cohort. Why? Because we used to see a significant divide in media consumption between "digital natives" and "the rest of us." Media quintile data illustrated clear patterns of media preference: certain demographic cohorts were heavy users of one medium, and light to non-users of others. The media mix was, therefore, crucial to add reach, to ensure that "everyone" saw the brand's message.

The recent screen data illustrate that the divide may no longer exist. The "rest of us" caught up to the "digital natives"; we all hang out on computer screens and, increasingly, on mobile as well. But, we didn't abandon television in the process. We're just spending more time watching more screens! This has a profound impact on the role of media mix: All of a sudden, a multi-media mix will drive frequency along with reach!

What does multi-screen frequency mean for the creative strategy? If the same television creative (or some time variant of the spot) appears on both the television screen and the computer screen, we can expect the spot to wear out very quickly. The accumulation of screens may drive frequency of exposure and commercial fatigue to new heights.

But, there is also a significant upside to this phenomenon. If we no longer have to place the same message in two different screen media to accumulate reach, can we then create richer stories in each medium? We now have the opportunity to share the story across screens so that messages are additive as opposed to duplicative. This should liberate creative teams to craft rich brand stories as opposed to "one size fits all" video messages.

We should first look at a creative idea in "story" form as opposed to "storyboard" form. Then, we can explore how to edit those stories into screen formats so that each video channel receives a compelling thread.

In order for this strategy to work, first and foremost we need the story. And, we need a collaboration process that co-mingles creative talent across screen platforms to both craft and edit the story.

1 comment about "Wake-Up: A Screen Is A Screen Is A Screen! ".
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  1. Jason Deal from Initiative, November 12, 2009 at 11:59 p.m.

    Good stuff. I wish the ROI for device specific content (formatting and actual content design) were overwhelming because this is something marketers (with :30 spot and now banner production budgets) seem to be having a terrible time either selling through or executing.

    From a media stand-point, you bring up a good point regarding cross-media frequency changes due to media consumption shifts. I think the industry needs to study and better understand this impact on consumers...especially if the narrative is threaded across platforms rather than just replicating the same ads in different channels. It certainly "feels" powerful.

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