Welcome to the Age of Multiscreen Storytelling

Storytelling as it relates to digital media is often associated with content marketing. Branded films, Web series, social video, native ads…all are ideal channels for dispatching stories that bring consumers closer to brands. Think about display ad campaigns, though, and you’ll find storytelling is a theme here, too. And just try having a conversation about multiscreen advertising without bringing up the concept of brand story.

In fact, it looks increasingly like multiscreen advertising is where we’ll be seeing brand stories unfold. We’ve entered the age of the multiscreen campaign, and there’s no going back. In its global Cross-Screen Engagement study, Microsoft Advertising found that 68 percent of consumers engage in “content grazing” – multi-tasking using several devices at once. According to the report, “Marketers will only succeed in the multiscreen world if they create content that enables personal engagement across TVs, PCS, consoles, tablets, and mobile devices.”

They’re already on their way. A recent survey of leading ad agencies conducted by data-driven ad platform Jivox found that almost 75 percent of advertisers are running multiscreen ad campaigns, and two-thirds plan to do the same before the year is out. The data is consistent with a report from the Association of National Advertisers and Nielsen that revealed 48 percent of marketers consider multiscreen advertising “very important” to their marketing efforts. In that study, 72 percent of respondents said they expect to increase their integrated multiscreen campaign budgets between 26 and 100 percent by 2016.

“Multiscreen advertising and mobile spend is skyrocketing as brands realize they can’t skip a screen like mobile if they want to reach today’s always-connected consumer,” says Diaz Nesamoney, founder and chief executive (CEO) of Jivox. “Unfortunately, many advertisers are still unintentionally running interactive ads that end up rendering as static fallbacks because the ads have not been optimized for mobile.” Companies like Jivox – and multiscreen video platforms like Mixpo and YuMe – offer solutions designed to run multiscreen ad campaigns at scale hoping, Nesamoney says, that they’ll “engage customers on every screen.”

Media planners and buyers can engage consumers through multiscreen stories in numerous ways, but the main idea is to let the narrative unfold across multiple platforms while leveraging each medium’s strengths. When consumers encounter an ad campaign bit by bit, in different places and at different points of the day, they get an experience akin to watching a movie or reading a novel. They’re drawn in, their interest is piqued, and they’re eager to see what happens next. Because of its ability to deliver a brand message in this fashion, multiscreen marketing is a perfect storytelling strategy.

At this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, Microsoft showcased several campaign case studies that told multiscreen brand stories through episodic programming across laptops, Xbox, and tablets. Among them was a campaign for Lexus that promoted its Web-based extreme sports series, “Ride With the Other Me.”

Sometimes, a brand’s story is more about what it has to offer customers in the context of their everyday lives. In a different Microsoft Advertising multiscreen campaign for Ford Europe, the viewer receives geo-targeted display banners that incorporate a real-time weather forecast on Bing News to promote Ford’s heated windshield. An in-game mobile ad on the viewer’s Windows Phone then highlights another Ford feature and taps into Microsoft’s intelligent personal assistant Cortana to give the user the ability to schedule an appointment with a Ford dealer, while a third provides a portable Wi-Fi hotspot on Ford’s behalf.

As brands continue to invest in multiscreen advertising, the way in which they shape their messaging will become a critically important part of their campaigns. It won’t be long before this new breed of multi-tasking, cross-screen consumer fully expects to get his advertising in story form.

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