Is Content ‘Screen Agnostic?’

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January 24, 2012 – 5:37 pm

Erin Matts, Global Director, digital connections, Annheuser-Busch InBevMarketers' and media companies’ interest in cross-platform advertising these days still has a number of hurdles to clear before these programs become truly simple and seamless. Among the big questions around advertising for TV and online video is whether content meant for large television screens translates well to smaller tablets and smartphones.

For the most part, the novelty of being able to watch video on-the-go wins out for those with smartphones. And with tablets, more and more people are interested in downloading TV Everywhere apps on their iPads and other tablets even though they're just a few feet away from their HD sets. So clearly, a sizable number of consumers have effectively said, "It all looks fine to me."

But advertising is different. Consumers probably would like to avoid all advertising if they could, so making them watch something better suited for a 40-inch HD screen on 3-and-half inch smartphone tends not to work very well. A panel at the NAPTE 2012 conference in Miami Beach moderated by Michael Kassan, chairman & CEO, MediaLink, batted around some answers to that question GroupM Global CEO Irwin Gotlieb.

Gotlieb took the first stab at addressing Kassan's question about whether content – and the ads that attend it – is "screen agnostic." Gotlieb: "It is and isn't. For one thing, all impressions aren't of equal value. Plus, total usage on the YouTubes of the world are still a fraction of what hit TV shows attract and the total time spent consuming video is still a small fraction when compared with TV. That’s why there is a perceived imbalance in spending between online and offline. As agencies, we are concerned about scalability. The move towards HD complicates things with cross-platform arrangements, because the consumer is becoming more accustomed to higher picture quality. Looking at a grainy image on a computer is disappointing, as is waiting for a video to buffer. So the experience is definitely not the same across all screens."

The best approach to cross-platform doesn't have to have rely on all screens mirroring each other. But that appears especially true for big events, like the Super Bowl. As Annheuser-Busch InBev's Erin Matts told TVExchanger following her appearance on the panel, "For digital, the most interesting stuff happens the day after the Super Bowl, and that's something we're increasingly taking advantage of."

The closer connection between TV viewers and their devices is how the beer marketer tends to focus its cross-platform efforts.

"Our key audience for most of our brands is going to be [legal drinking age]-29 and we have a lot of strength in 35-plus,” Matts said. “Budweiser is a part of American heritage, the culture. Where we have to do a little more work is around the 21- to 28-year-old area. It's not that they're not watching television. It's that they have their phones and laptops open at the same time the TV is on. So it makes sense for us to be seen across all those screens, even if the experience on each is different.”

But in many cases, the content doesn't have to be too different. It really comes down to presentation. For example, last weekend, Budweiser introduced a seven-episode, hour-long series it produced for ABC called Bud United presents: The Big Time.

The show, is now airing weekly on Saturday afternoons for the next seven weeks. "In addition to the TV show, we also have 90 pieces of content online related to the program," Matts said. “To often, advertisers just try to repurpose something for TV to online. So we have a number of clips that people can watch online whenever they want.”

So does she think that viewers would also watch an entire episode on their connected devices? “Many would, I believe,” she said. “After all, how many of us can survive a long plane trip to California without downloading a movie? How many people are just watching films and long-form programs on their iPads? Consumers' viewing habits are changing and we can’t underestimate how quickly it’s happening.”

By David Kaplan

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January 24, 2012 – 5:37 pm

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