The battle of the screens means a battle for the dollars

The battle of the screens means a battle for the dollars
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The huge uptake in digital video consumption means that consumers are now shifting from one screen to four when it comes to viewing video content.

People are not only consuming traditional media such as TV and radio to get their news and entertainment fix, but they’re also turning to desktop computers, internet-connected devices (such as an xBox or smart TV), tablets and smartphones – and simultaneously too.

Use of digital services across many screens has skyrocketed in recent years, with more than 36 million people now watching video on their mobile phones today.

In fact, the largest shift to date has been that to mobile devices. Robert Kyncl, global head of content for YouTube during a panel discussion at the Abu Dhabi Media Conference 2012, noted that mobile accounts for 25% of video views, which is substantially higher than the 6% recorded just 18 months prior[1]

With this shift in consumption, advertising dollars are starting to trickle through to the digital space but there is still a minefield of untapped opportunities. 

Between 2008 and 2011, mobile ad spending increased sevenfold, and within the last year alone spending has nearly doubled – but still only  11% of the general online advertising dollars are spent on mobile advertising[2]. This is due to a number of challenges associated with spending advertising dollars online.

Firstly, the lack of common standards on the different screens makes it difficult to produce a single ad that will work effectively across multiple platforms. Ad buyers are looking for ways to efficiently extend reach and measure across every platform, but without set guidelines many advertisers may find themselves caught up in resizing ads rather than using their resources for the creative aspects. 

While the industry is currently trying to tackle this problem – the IAB recently released Mobile Web Advertising Measurement Guidelines for public comment to standardise in-app mobile advertising measurement – there is still a ways to go in order to increase the uptake of mobile advertising.

Secondly, the low-level CPMs on mobile video which are on average one quarter or less than the desktop is a disincentive to sellers who consider providing advertising inventory. While there are several influences on pricing, one of the main inhibitors is that CPMs cannot rise until ad units better match the experience. 

With a growing percentage of traffic to many websites via a mobile device, the advertising industry needs a better way to capture the data and entice online publishers to further monetise their content.

On the flip side, these challenges present real opportunities for savvy advertisers. Advertisers should take advantage of publishers who are currently offering these technologies as the opportunity will ensure they are at the forefront of the advertising industry as it accelerates throughout the digital era.

Finally, when it comes to digital video, only a handful of publishers are implementing technologies that can assist in the integration of video into apps and the mobile web.  Currently only a small number of publishers offer user-initiated advertising on mobile devices to facilitate interactivity, skipping or opt-outs.

At present, it seems that both industries are at a standoff: advertisers are slow to invest in the mobile platform unless they know their content will get eyeballs, whilst publishers need to justify developing new technologies unless there is a significant demand from advertisers and rightly so.

Studies have already found that multi-screen campaigns greatly increase brand recall and are a much more cost effective way than running separate media campaigns. For example, the television show The Voice successfully captured its audience through implementing a multi-screen strategy. They utilised TV to engage viewers, and then followed up with additional online-only content to allow users to actively engage with the show in less traditional ways.

As the additional content could be accessed on desktop, mobile and tablet devices, users were free to engage on their own time and on their own terms. This created additional scope for brands to extend their engagement with the user and proved invaluable for the overall outcomes of the campaign.

It is important for advertisers to start to realise the potential of advertising on multiple platforms but also to note the distinctions between each screen. For example, tablets, TVs and games are immersive, whereas smartphone users tend to consume small increments at a time. Additionally, content of the ad should still be a primary concern for advertisers as consumers continue to respond to short clips rather than a long-form narrative.

The multi-platform world may seem difficult and daunting for some, but one thing is for sure, it is definitely not going away anytime soon. The sooner advertisers can adjust and take advantage of the multi-screen advertising, the quicker the industry itself will adapt in turn providing greater opportunities.  

Matt Von der Muhll is director of SpotXchange in Australia.

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