Last time I discussed how understanding the mind-set of the user was key to developing effective campaigns. If this is not embraced and understood within one medium, i.e. the web, then we will have no chance in the new world of multiplicity.

Convergence is going to be the essence of web 3.0. No longer limited to a single device for browsing the web or consuming digital content, it is going to be in how these devices interplay and synchronise with each other that is crucial.

Take iTunes. Sure there is the iPod, but what is an iPod without iTunes? One is where you buy and/or organise your content, one is where you carry your content – both are where you consume your content. Despite the cross-over, they both are designed to do fundamentally different roles. (And stop confusing matters with iPhones and wireless iTunes… work with me here!)

The key is in understanding the device and limitations of the input, the display, the user’s mindset when engaging, external environmental issues that may come into play – all these things are factors in consuming appropriate messages across devices. In essence content should be able to follow a user, but adapts to the device.

Media Meshing.

What is meant by this is simultaneous connections across multiple devices. It’s about polar opposites; converging content but diverging devices. Its about sitting at home with the TV on in the background, a laptop on my knee and a mobile in my pocket. Where does the experience start and end. Should it really be the same on each device?

Think about the following, and how you really will engage with with at any moment in the not-to-distant future:

  • 3” mobile – “1ft user experience”
  • 19” laptop – “3ft user experience”
  • 50” TV screen – “10ft user experience”
  • 10’ Billboard – “100ft user experience”

In fact when you consider digital billboards, as I pass one at arms-length on the escalator in an underground station, I am hardly having a 100 foot experience, but a multiple interactions as content flows from one into another next to me.

Now I appreciate digital for the most part is considered as based entirely around a 3ft user experience, this is evident in watching designers build PowerPoint presentations in a 12pt font. Looks pretty up close on their screens, but unfortunately my glasses only give me 20-20 vision when out on the road!

This is the point, they screen, the input device, the interface – in fact the entire experience is different on each device, so here is the inherent problem with content created for one not truly becoming successfully appropriated to the other. Will I ever give up watching TV to watch it on my iPod? Will I ever stop using my PC to communicate and instead turn to my mobile or blackberry? The end of the day I can type faster on a full size keyboard… so I choose convenient when I am out, and comfort when I am back. When I am at home, the convenience of that video content portability is replaced with experience that in many cases is better than in a public environment, like a cinema.

The device will dictate the consumption pattern.

Environmental Concerns

Environmental is the user’s relationship with their device that can typically be divided into two categories. What is seen as ‘lean back’ versus ‘lean forward’ content.

  • Lean back: passive viewing, relaxing with a remote control in one hand, so is menu driven from a single point
  • Lean forward: interactive experience of a keyboard, mouse and monitor, that enables clickable media (hot spotting video)

Television is lean-back content. Hence why interactive TV is difficult to embrace, hampered by a lack of accuracy of a pointing device but beyond that to a different mindset when I am absorbing content sponge like. The brand needs to entertain.

Add a games console to my TV, and suddenly the device becomes lean-forward as I am actively engaged and charged on the edge of my seat (or out of it if using a Nintendo Wii!). The brand needs to involve.

PC’s are typically seen as lean-forward devices as I am actively involved with the content, even creating the content. The brand needs to inspire.

With the advent of YouTube and the likes, suddenly PC content is becoming lean-back. You may search for content on YouTube, but then everything else is recommended. This is a programme scheduler; suggested, passive viewing and as that content gets longer in length, we will become more and more passive. Still expecting me to click to your micro site?

Contextual Concerns

At a recent conference, I was exposed to a new Context Matters study by Caroline Vogt, Head of International Research for Microsoft, where they wanted to delve beyond time spent with a brand into identifying and describing key online ‘occasions’ and their contexts so as to examine the advertising affects at specific points of time.

By getting a sample of users to keep a diary of media consumption, what they were hoping to address was:

  1. Is there still a role for interruptive advertising?
  2. Can I advertise around conversation rather than content?
  3. How much of online activity offers a media opportunity?

They managed to break our online consumption into the flowing tasks:

  • Communication – 35%
  • Information – 18%
  • Entertainment – 18%
  • Surfing – 9%
  • Transactions – 9%
  • Creation – 4%

Now when you consider most people naturally assume the web is spent as time-wasting, ‘surfing the web’, the facts are that less than 10% of your online time is spent doing just that.

What was discovered was that 70% of the online time was done multi-tasked, whilst people simultaneously watched TV, were working or eating.

So if you are doing other things, what is your real absorption of brands and how receptive to advertising whilst you are communicating or creating? Not only that but people’s moods also change – stands to reason if you do a job you dislike you maybe more distractible then one you are engrossed with, and what about clock-watching to get home in the evening.

All this seem to bear an effect, where mornings are seen as information gathering times, and evening’s are seen as prime for entertainment. When I am collecting information or even being entertained I am more open to ads, but when creating content I am at my least receptive.

What also came across is that we are very much creatures of habit, I goto the newsagent, post office, pub, cinema… and each of these activities has a digital counterpart, for instance Hotmail for a post office, YouTube for the cinema. Facebook for the pub, etc.

The way we would need to communicate in a day-parted approach, not only in media buying, but understanding where a user is at in terms of mood and context, again all needs to influence the creative message and experience we need to offer them. No point trying to get me to click or play games when I am creating content, but give me branded tools to help me create easily… well, now you have my attention.

It is only when we start putting all these pieces together are we going to truly understand the consumer and their journey from their viewpoint and stand the chance of truly engaging and influencing them positively on behalf of the clients they represent.

In my next instalment I will attempt to pull all we have learnt so far into something that is known as TransMedia advertising.