Screens have a proven track record in delivering effective commercial messaging but the industry hasn’t fared well at capitalising on the attention opportunity provided by nascent digital routes to market. Some marketers have found themselves applying old media logic to new media spaces.

This article outlines six component parts to developing a multiscreen approach, including deciding on the best screen mix and the hierarchy of screens, building a story and using the targeting technologies of each screen to create connections between each of the chosen screens

PHD Global Business Strategy Director Tom Darlington uses the drink brand Rubicon Spring as an example of a successful multiscreen approach that combined digital and social, supported by TV and VOD to increase awareness of its product.

This article is part of a series of articles on media strategies for multiscreen viewing. Read more.

Media strategies for multiscreen viewing

The fragmentation of the media landscape has been driven, somewhat paradoxically, by the increasing ubiquity of screens. They are everywhere. No longer just a means of orientating the furniture in your front room, the screen is increasingly the primary interface with all types of media – from publishing, to radio, to out-of-home.

Screens have a proven track record in delivering effective commercial messaging. They’re like catnip for consumers, activating our brains in ways few other mediums can. They have addictive qualities and the potential to rewire our minds. Much discourse around modern parenting questions the access we give our young to the devices and displays that litter our lives, as well as challenging adults to question the impact that screen time has on their general well-being.

Digital media has fuelled this proliferation. Screens may increasingly be the access point for content, but the plumbing of this new media ecology is supplied by the internet. To date, the industry hasn’t fared too well at capitalising on the attention opportunity provided by nascent digital routes to market. The industry has simply applied old media logic to new media spaces: the pre-roll an analogue for spot airtime, the MPU an analogue for print advertising, online ‘billboards’ an abstraction of a large format poster. Pay-per-click is perhaps the best example of a native ad format which is not just ‘on the web’ but ‘of it’.

We need to address this issue quickly. With the increased ubiquity of screens there comes an inflection point for media strategy: it’ll be less about developing a strategy for multiscreen viewing and more about the fact that the strategy for multiscreen viewing will be the media strategy. This is even more of an imperative for global media planners. Take, for example, the way screens work in a market like China, where the traditional ‘first’ screen is less impactful than it is in a market like the UK. To illustrate, many of the local marketplaces within China are now ‘video first’ rather than TV first and, against key audiences, penetration of TV and time spent with TV (TV penetration is at 70% of all adults and 60% of 16–34s) is in decline vs. other media channels such as online video, mobile and outdoor. More than ever, each market or geography will need its own approach to make sense of the varied screen landscape.

Fragmentation of media, and therefore the fragmentation of ‘attention’ available to advertisers and their messages, has come about as a direct consequence of the increased presence of screens in the lives of consumers. We’ve seen a change not only in the availability of attention but also in the types of attention that different screens command or encourage. New screens provide further options for interactivity, adding new dimensions and complications to the once singular, broadcast approach facilitated by the first generation of screens used by consumers – a change that adds complexity as well as opportunity to the media planning process.

The multiscreen media planner therefore, more than ever, needs to eschew the temptation to become overly obsessed around the outputs of any one media opportunity or vehicle. To avoid the type of thinking that blindly prescribes the level of investment that goes into one channel or another based on industry norms or averages in the hope of appearing ‘progressive’. The laws of marketing science made famous by Byron Sharp and his colleagues at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute provide the guard rails for any campaigns deployed in an evolving media landscape: we must find the best way of maximising reach against all category buyers and use media channels to place our clients’ brands in contexts and moments which strengthen desirable associations, keeping the products front of mind when a purchase may occur. We must avoid going too far down the rabbit hole of micro-moments and micro-targeting which new media tempts us with, lest we forget that small media interventions inevitably stimulate only small growth for brands and business.

It is a good rule of thumb that the size of the ambition within a brief prescribes the size of the intervention that is required. A focus on outcomes – what the client or brand needs to happen because of a strand of activity – will help make sense of the choices a multiscreen world presents media planners with, guiding the decisions they make in planning their campaigns. Understanding the desired outcome first, a planner can then build the component parts of their multiscreen approach. There are six component parts to developing this approach:

  • Cut your cloth according to the task: Decide the mix of screens which will be deployed to best bring about the desired outcome. Brands which need to shift perception or change the way people think or feel about them will require a different mix of screens to brands that are looking to reinforce the way people may think about them, for example.
  • Not all screens are created equal: Once you have decided the screens you intend to use, decide the hierarchy of those screens: how do I order or prioritise the screens I have chosen, based on my understanding of their respective qualities to best achieve my task? Which is the ‘lead’ channel? How do the others support this choice and create a holistic plan?
  • Build the story: How can the message or narrative I’m trying to build in service of my desired outcome be delivered across the outlets I’ve chosen? Can sections of the narrative be compartmentalised? Which bits are designed to change opinion? Which bits are designed to facilitate further action? What restrictions do I have to work around and how can I design assets which best fit within these parameters?
  • Take aim: How can you use targeting technologies available to each screen in a way that can create ‘connections’ between each of your chosen screens (and/or develop the narrative)?
  • Create connections: How can you link your ecosystem of screens to the broader touchpoints owned or operated by your client and where might you need to point people in order to reach your aims?
  • Measure and evaluate: What is the measurement framework you have in place that can demonstrate the effectiveness of some or all of your screen-mix in meeting your desired outcome and how might you optimise this blend going forward based on the information you receive?

If these seem familiar, it’s perhaps because these are the same principles that have driven best-in-practice ‘integrated’ thinking in media practices since modern advertising began. What this is not designed to be is an exercise in rolling out ‘matching luggage’ across each media channel that is available, but instead a framework for understanding the way that choices are made to build a plan of complementary media options designed to ladder up to your broader aims and ambitions. There is no one-size-fits-all approach for brands; markets need to understand the outcome they want to bring about, apply the laws of marketing science as they apply to the brand in question, and build a multiscreen plan accordingly.

Case study: Rubicon Spring, summer 2017

AG Barr’s summer 2017 campaign for Rubicon Spring is a great example of a modern multiscreen approach, combining digital and social, supported by TV and VOD to increase awareness of its low-calorie juice and spring water beverage. Operating in a highly competitive market, PHD and Talon Outdoor helped the client capture the attention of health-conscious buyers looking for a more flavourful alternative to water, as well as fizzy beverage drinkers seeking to reduce calories without sacrificing taste.

To reach 16–34s – a segment of the market that is highly mobile and less likely to respond to traditional media channels – a digital out-of-home campaign was developed featuring animated characters engaging in a ‘fruity fling’ with spring water on holiday, giving rise to Rubicon Spring. Day-parting and understanding the context in which the digital ads needed to be deployed, led to a plan consisting of placements around arterial motorway routes, rail stations and key stations on the London Underground. These targeted the core audiences during a time of heightened relevance for the product and reached them when they would be most mobile and active outside the home.

Rubicon Spring’s fruity animated characters were further brought to life across social with a special Facebook live interview, in which people could interact with Mr Mango (the cheekiest of the four) and ask him for dating advice, developing associations inherent to the campaign. Contextually targeted TV spots and VOD ads also supported the campaign by maximising message reach and showcasing how the ‘fruity fling’ with spring water gave rise to the four product flavours. This approach acknowledged the importance of selective TV/VOD presence for this audience rather than blanket coverage, which could have been more cost-effective given the level of consumption exhibited by the people we were targeting.

Rubicon Spring has been AG Barr’s most successful NPD launch ever. As a result of the campaign, 76% of people who saw it said they were likely to buy the product – and one in 10 of the target buyers now drink Rubicon Spring regularly. In order to do this, the plan needed to reflect the nuances of how different screens work in relation to this audience and the best means of driving relevance and cut-through for the launch.

The article first appeared on warc.com