Crossing the Screens

An often-repeated tenet of mobile holds that mobile marketing is great, but it’s even better in the context of other media. Conversely, one could phrase it, “Don’t segregate or separate mobile from the rest of the media landscape.” Living up to this anti-silo principle can be a challenge. Finite time and resources sometimes require a “divide and conquer” approach to the diverse platforms, challenges, and opportunities of digital media. Additionally, many aspects of mobile media are unique to mobile, and need to be addressed first to put this segment of the industry on a firm foundation for growth.

However, what might once have been a bright dividing line between “mobile” and “not mobile” is now at best a blurry gray area. And both media companies and advertisers are increasingly thinking holistically about advertising: campaigns should extend and resonate across screens, rather than being compartmentalized onto just one medium.

One irritating uncertainty gets in the way of realizing that holistic approach toward advertising: it’s hard to measure how well it works.

Many people believe that viewers who see an ad campaign on TV, and also see the same campaign on the PC-based web and on their smartphone, are more likely to have that campaign “break through” and be remembered than someone who sees the campaign on just one or two of those platforms. That’s intuitively plausible, but proof is lacking.

Considering that that is a multi-billion dollar question, there’s a surprising lack of publicly available, widely disseminated research on how consumers perceive, react to, and remember ads when they see them across several of the screens they use.

The IAB’s XMOS (“Cross Media Optimization Studies”) project from the early 2000s is still widely cited as a groundbreaking model of cross-media research. Those studies were a complex, highly time- and money-consuming endeavor, and they didn’t even have mobile advertising to worry about. Think of a Venn diagram for an ad campaign with just a PC web and TV components. Brand effectiveness research like XMOS requires gathering data on four groups of consumers:

  • Exposed to the PC web part of the campaign (one circle).
  • Exposed to the TV part of the campaign (the other circle).
  • Exposed to both the PC web and the TV campaign (the overlap).
  • Not exposed to either part of the campaign (outside the circles).

Adding mobile means there are three circles in the Venn diagram and eight groups of consumers to identify and gather data on.

Building on the XMOS legacy, the IAB’s Mobile Marketing Center has made looking at mobile in the context of cross-media ad effectiveness one of our core goals for 2013. We have engaged with Insight Express and a group of members to launch a piece of primary research we’re calling the Cross-Screen Optimization Studies, or “XSOS,” which will test cross-media impact of actual, in-flight ad campaigns that include mobile. There are three things to emphasize about this project:

  • Synergy focus. Our design for XSOS will show how mobile works together with PC digital and traditional media to have a holistic, synergistic impact on consumer awareness and attitudes. We believe that a cross-media plan is worth more than the sum of its parts; XSOS will help prove that.
  • State-of-the-art methodology. Much has changed in the research world since the days of XMOS, but the core principles of good research design remain constant. XSOS takes advantage of the methodological advances while maintaining a high standard for research excellence.
  • We need it. XSOS will fill a vital industry need. The IAB commissioned a piece called “The State of Mobile Measurement” back in 2011. That report referred to cross-media measurement as the “Holy Grail” of the mobile world, a statement that remains true today.

It’s exciting to help lead an effort that is so challenging, but so manifestly important, for the industry.

Three Screens image on home page via Shutterstock.

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