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Marketing in the 4-screen world

September 11, 2012

The concept of 4-screen (TV, PC, mobile and tablet) or multiple screens is not a new concept for marketers. This would surface in marketing planning workshop, at integrated media solutions, and often discussed and interrogated in the context of consumer’s decision journey where marketers attempt to identify key consumer touch points, thereby determine where budgets and resources are best focused.

What remains a challenge to marketers is not so much the acknowledgement of the growing number of multiple-screen users, but what and how, should these shifts in consumer behaviours impact our marketing plans. 

Google US recently released a new study “The New Multi-screen World” (Aug 2012), providing data-substantiated clarity to these consumer cross-platform behaviours. In a nut-shell, the 8 key take-outs, as extracted from the study’s Executive Summary are:

  1. We are a nation of multi-screeners, most of our time is spent in front of a screen, be it the PC, smartphone, tablet or TV.
  2. The device we choose is often driven by our context of where we are, what we want to accomplish and the amount of time needed.
  3. There are two main modes of multi-screening
  • Sequential screening (where we move between devices) and
  • Simultaneous screening (where we use multiple devices at the same time)
  1. TV no longer commands our full attention as it becomes one of the most common devices used simultaneously with other screens.
  2. Portable screens allow us to move easily from one device to another to achieve a task, with Search being the most common bridge between devices in this sequential usage.
  3. With devices being used simultaneously, our attention is split between distinct activities on each device.
  4. Smartphones are the backbone of daily media interactions, with the highest number of user interactions per day and serve as the most common starting point for activities across multiple screens.
  5. Multiple screens make us feel more efficient because we can act spontaneously and get a sense of accomplishment – this results in a feeling of “found time”.

While US-centric, Google’s findings could very well affirm some of the hypotheses that Asian marketers are making about the way consumers are utilising devices to consume and interact with their brand messages, or which media channels and devices are possibly more effective in delivering those messages.

What interested me most are the implications of what Google termed as the two modes of multi-screening, “Sequential screening” and “Simultaneous screening”.

  • Sequential screening: Reaching consumers in this mode would require marketers’ knowledge of their target consumer’s decision flow and the understanding of devices they may utilise along this journey. To determine the former can already be a challenge, including devices to the communication and media planning mix only adds further layers of complexity to the task of reaching and engaging consumer.

The good news is that Google’s study has provided evidence that consumers are indeed using multiple screens in their path to purchase.


As reported in UM’s global social media study, Wave 6 – The Business Of Social, released early this year, different devices have different strengths. When smartphones and tablet devices were compared, both of which are playing important roles in the social media, it was found that they offered very different environments for communication. A smartphone (e.g. iPhone, Blackberry etc.) was about fun and function, helping to manage consumer’s life and fill in down-time. A tablet device (e.g. iPad, Samsung Galaxy etc.) was good at enabling leisurely experiences such as creativity and learning. More importantly, the tablet was seen as a better environment for making a purchase. Google’s multi-screen study and Wave 6, are driving home the importance for marketers, not only to understand which screens are more suited to deliver the experience they want to create, but how these screens relate to one another.


Wave 6 then went on to connect devices with experiences. Never mind the fragmentation in traditional media, the growth of internet connected devices means that marketers can no longer just think about the media itself, social or otherwise, but also the screen through which it is delivered.



  • Simultaneous screening: In this mode, it would demand marketers to have an in-depth understanding of how devices are being “combined in usage” by consumers, to enhance and enrich what they are doing at specific points in time. Such combination of devices could change throughout the day, depending on the consumer’s attitude or state of mind, location, what they are doing, how much time they need or have. And when in simultaneous screening mode, consumers could be engaging in multi-tasking or complementary activities.

Google’s study found that while TV no longer commands our full attention, it has become one of the most common devices used simultaneously with other screens. How could marketers reconcile traditional TV’s “appointment to view” with consumer’s ability to pull content “on demand”, now enabled by devices and connectivity?

This recently Cannes-awarded “Chok! Chok! Chok!” Coke campaign by UM Hong Kong, has utilised multi-screens delivering great results. Not only did this campaign successfully combined the broad reach of TV, cinema, outdoor, online advertising and mobile to deliver their brand messages, it had created a social gaming experience enabling consumers to interact with the brand ads via an app downloaded to their mobile phones. One of the best things about the 400,000+ number of plays achieved from this campaign was that the client knew, without shadow of a doubt, that at least that many consumers had definitely seen the ad (in real-time via respective media channels), because they were playing the game.

UM and McCann Hong Kong empowered Coca-Cola consumers to capture and reveal “Under the Crown” directly from their TV screens using their own mobile phones. With a dedicated Coca-Cola ‘Chok’ app, the mobile phone became the “remote” to our ‘never-been-seen-before’ interactive TV commercial. The mobile app included built-in branded wall papers, mobile games and more. The application was downloaded over 390,000 times and became the #1 top free app only 15-hours after launch. The interactive TVC was played over 9 million times, with a daily traffic of up to 400,000 while online social discussion increased by 218%. There was a +12.5% growth in sales by the end of the campaign – a record-breaking growth rate in such a short period of time. Penetration of Coca-Cola among teens increased from 78% to 83% and enhanced perception with 52% of teens considering Coca-Cola to be ‘innovative.

Marketers more than ever, are faced with enormous choice when thinking about how to connect with consumers. The need to include devices in communication planning is becoming inevitable, i.e. the need to take into account the interconnected relationship between creative messaging, media channels and devices, and whether messages across various devices and platforms could be consumed sequentially or simultaneously.

How would we know which device does the best job in delivering what messages and experiences? Ask the consumers, or as in all things digital, plan, test, track, learn, apply, test and test again.

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