Senior Media Planner, Dom Mellin, shares his thoughts with Marketing Tech on how to make screen agnosticism work. 


I should make it clear that I am a sincere unbeliever when it comes to buzzwords in my industry. Neither is there a ‘jargon agnosticism’ for me; purely an atheism towards the very concept of waffle and piffle that permeates media as a whole.

I take great delight in hearing comprehensive mocking of the way I talk – it’s important to identify our professional flaws, and terms like ‘screen agnosticism’ serve only to confuse the audience into thinking that you’re some sort of Martin-Sorrell-and-Richard-Dawkins test tube baby, or a serial sceptic when it comes to Japanese sliding doors.

Regardless of the phrasing, the concept of ‘screen agnosticism’ is incredibly important moving into 2017 (I’ll stop quoting it in a second, as if it’s a dirty word). It unites the way we plan both media and creative, allowing – or perhaps forcing – innovation in advertising to become truly collaborative.

Screen agnosticism is the evolution of the concept of ‘device agnosticism’; any app or programme designed to be operational across systems without any major overhauls or amendments. In a marketing sense, it comprises a marketing creative, message or idea that can be seamlessly dispersed across the digital diaspora, functioning perfectly on any screen, whilst also being instantly recognisable as part of a connecting campaign.

Our agency benefits from being an integrated agency, which allows a free-flowing dialogue when pairing media and message. However, screen agnosticism is more than having a contiguous branding across platforms. It is important therefore to understand the difference between correlation and synchronisation when delivering a campaign.

Channel tussle

The digital revolution allowed marketers to access hitherto unseen parts of consumers’ lives, broadening the scope of how relevant we can be, in what we serve and how/when/where we serve it. This was embraced with open arms and a slightly tight, uncomfortable hug, like that of an eager child and a nervous dog. Each channel, thoroughly analysed for strengths and weaknesses, would emerge sporting a message that would be limited by the tunnel vision of scripting to the screen. An effective message on a mobile phone would be indistinguishable as part of the same campaign on a bus stop poster.

The challenge of 2017 will be to take that dispersion of channels and bring it back to a nucleate idea or creative that can disperse itself across channels. The driving force behind screen agnosticism is that anything is transferable across channels in a way that media hasn’t been in the past. There were some great examples in 2016 by trailblazers, and they’ve had considerable success.

Take the differences between social video content and broadcast video content as an example. In the past, brands have meticulously planned and created TV spots, whilst attempting to also curate the feeling of a ‘live’ broadcast on social media, as if the brand was not Louis Vuitton the designer, but Lewis Button, your mate down the pub. This conflict of representation causes problems in how consumers recall the brand, and specifically, how salience can be built across channels.

This has led to a rise in social advertising, where the audience-turned-actors from Facebook feeds and Instagram pictures are not only flaunted on their respective social platforms, but are transported into the world of traditional media. This ‘Gogglebox-style’ marketing can be viewed to great effect with TalkTalk’s ‘This Stuff Matters’ campaign, with the featured family showcased in a home video format through TV, social, and digital outdoor.

This reinforces the overarching principle that audience-led insight planning will forever trump channel-led planning. Not only does this sort of execution provide a synchronicity in media that consumers can identify with and latch onto, it also drives down production costs in an increasingly uncertain world. The IPA Bellwether report forecasts that ad spend over the next 12 months is set to decline by 0.7% year on year, and anything that marketers can do to reinforce their budgets against their objectives will be a welcome addition to the agency armoury.

Moving forward

So what should we be doing as brands or agencies moving into 2017? A time-worn question, and one that will be spurring yet more articles next January, and the January after that. The problem with many agencies attempting to deliver ‘added value’ to their clients is that this is often misinterpreted as ‘give them stuff for free’. From competitor reviews, strategy audits, or a few hours of someone like me blathering on in front of an interactive whiteboard, the industry will throw the equivalent of a yo-yo in a box of cereal and hope for the best.

In reality, agencies can deliver most added value to clients by staying ahead of the innovation bell curve, ensuring that their media plans are not being mired in the same old tired formats, or playing catch-up after all of their competitors have played their cards. Through trends like screen agnosticism, agencies and brands can execute brave and forward-thinking media plans that harness the way audiences are consuming media.

The great thing about screen agnosticism is how much simpler it is compared to what has come before – not always a factor when brands try to innovate. The creation of a single, great idea, properly planned to lend itself to every channel, can be the difference between a fractious campaign and a campaign that truly builds brand reputation.

A multi-screen digital world allows us to create a media ecosystem, and any brand that continues to treat it like a loose and varying collection of screens will find themselves lost in the flood.

This article was originally published on Marketing Tech.

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