Yean Cheong
Sep 6, 2012

IN-DEPTH: Marketing in a four-screen world

Recent studies have begun to provide some clarity about how consumers are using multiple screens—and how marketers and planners must adjust their thinking to accommodate these changes, writes Yean Cheong, head of digital, IPG Mediabrands Asia.

IN-DEPTH: Marketing in a four-screen world

The knowledge that consumers rely increasingly on multiple screens (TV, PC, mobile and tablet) for information and entertainment is not a new concept for marketers. The trend surfaces in marketing planning workshops and is often discussed in the context of the consumer’s decision journey, as marketers attempt to identify key consumer touch points and 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, these shifts in consumer behaviours should impact our marketing plans. 

Google in the US recently released a new study, “The New Multi-screen World” (Aug 2012), providing data-substantiated clarity to these consumer cross-platform behaviours. The study provided eight key takeaways:

  1. We are 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 from one device to the next, and simultaneous screening, where we use multiple devices at the same time.
  4. TV no longer commands our full attention as it becomes one of the most common devices used simultaneously with other screens.
  5. 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.
  6. With devices being used simultaneously, our attention is split between distinct activities on each device.
  7. Smartphones are the backbone of daily media interactions, with the highest number of user interactions per day. They also serve as the most common starting point for activities across multiple screens.
  8. Multiple screens make us feel more efficient because we can act spontaneously and get a sense of accomplishment, which 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. The findings may also help indicate which media channels and devices are possibly more effective in delivering those messages.

What interests me most are the implications of the two modes of multi-screening Google identified: Sequential screening and simultaneous screening.

Sequential screening

Reaching consumers in this mode requires marketers to know their target consumer’s decision flow and understand the devices they may utilise along this journey. To determine the former can already be a challenge, adding 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 were found to play important roles in social media, but they offered very different environments for communication. A smartphone was about fun and function, helping to manage the consumer’s life and fill downtime. A tablet device 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 to understand not only which screens are more suited to delivering the experience they want to create, but also how these screens relate to one another.

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

Simultaneous screening

This mode demands that marketers 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 state of mind, location, activity, and available time. 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 can marketers reconcile traditional TV’s “appointment viewing” with the consumer’s ability to pull content “on demand”?

The recently Cannes-awarded “Chok! Chok! Chok!” campaign for Coca-Cola by UM Hong Kong utilised multiple screens to deliver great results. This campaign not only successfully combined the broad reach of TV, cinema, outdoor, online and mobile advertising to deliver brand messages but also created a social gaming experience—enabling consumers to interact with the brand ads via a mobile-phone app. One of the best things about the 400,000+ number of plays achieved from this campaign was that the client knew, beyond a 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 Coca-Cola “Chok” application was downloaded more than 390,000 times and became the top free app only 15 hours after launch. The interactive TVC was played more than 9 million times, with daily traffic of up to 400,000, while online social discussion increased by 218 per cent. Sales grew 12.5 percent 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 per cent to 83 per cent. Perception also improved, with 52 per cent of teens considering Coca-Cola to be innovative.

Marketers, more than ever, face enormous choice when thinking about how to connect with consumers. The need to include devices in communication planning is becoming inevitable: Marketers and planners must consider the interconnected relationship between creative messaging, media channels and devices, and whether messages across various devices and platforms can be consumed sequentially or simultaneously.

How can we know which devices do the best job of delivering certain messages and experiences? There is no shortcut to the answer. Ask the consumers, Or, as in all things digital, plan, test, track, learn, apply, test and test again.

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