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How can brands win the attention of the multi-screen consumer?

By Julian Smith |

April 7, 2014 | 4 min read

So, as the great and good of the media and marketing world go their separate ways after the industry chinwag that is Advertising Week Europe, I sit and reflect on what I’ve learnt about the status of our business.

Julian Smith

We live in a multi-screen world

What’s now self-evident, and readily accepted among our fraternity, is that consumers today live surrounded by screens. And at the centre of this multi-screen world is the smartphone. Always on us, 24/7, the mobile device is our constant companion, the ‘remote control’ to our lives, our connector and our enabler.

In this new, smartphone-centred, multi-screen world, consumers are becoming increasing empowered. They can live their lives more efficiently and effectively, achieve tasks quicker, consume and create content whenever and wherever, and remain constantly connected to their friends and the world at large.

With this greater consumer empowerment comes raised expectations of their dealings with brands and businesses. They now expect instant gratification and good, consistent experiences in whatever channel they connect through.

At the same time their attention span is getting even shorter. The opportunity to grab their eyeballs is getting harder for brands. Just look at the younger generation on their smartphones. They flit from Facebook, to Instagram, to Snapchat, to WhatsApp, to Candy Crush, to Spotify. How brands establish a meaningful presence in these environments is a key challenge to the industry today.

So with higher expectations and lower attention spans how do brands connect with the modern, multi-screen consumer? I heard a number of solutions offered up in the many panels and presentations during the week.

Tell a story

A panel of Creative Directors, in the ITV and ThinkBox presentation, argued that storytelling has never been more important in advertising today. Stories, in the form of branded content, experiences and conversations, that are pushed out to audiences and, at the same time, pull them in. The ‘Comparethemeerkat’ campaign was held up as a leading example of modern, multi-channel story-telling.

To develop and deliver this requires integrated communications planning and compelling content creation. Content that now needs to be fluid, in order that it can flow around the paid, owned and earned digital ecosystem.

And at the heart of this branded content is video, video still being the best medium to emotionally connect with consumers. The challenge with video today, however, is how to adapt it for the size and context of the screen it is being viewed on.

Provide a service/utility

At the same time brands now need to offer something useful to connected consumers, something that enables them to achieve a task. A service, a utility. The balance between Tell v Do needs to be considered.

This often comes in the form of a mobile app nowadays, but some panelists noted a word of caution around brands developing mobile apps. With the millions of apps now available within the app stores, developing a branded app that will be downloaded and regularly used by a large percentage of your target audience can be a real challenge.

Go native

Whether it is a native app, a native advertising format or a native content experience, to truly engage smartphone-attached consumers brands and agencies alike now need to think and act native.

As consumers adopt ever more sophisticated modern mobile devices marketers need to have a much deeper understanding of the features and functionality of the technology in consumers' hands. And it’s those that truly understand this technology and can combine this knowledge with creativity to create compelling native experiences that are likely to win out in the future.

I look forward to seeing how all this week’s industry talk turns into action over the coming months.

Julian Smith is head of strategy and innovations at Fetch


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