In the Grand Screen of Things

If you’re reading this blog post you’re reading it on a screen. If you’re planning on looking at any news today, that’s likely to happen on a screen, too. At some point this afternoon you’ll take a break from work, drink a tepid coffee, and use your phone to check out this video of a cat in a shark costume riding a Roomba. And tonight you’ll probably watch a bit of TV with a tablet in your lap.

It’s a multiscreen world.

In fact, 71% of Americans consume media on at least two devices a day, according to research by multiscreen ad company Collective. The bulk of ad spend is still rooted in television, but a number like 71% makes you stop and think.

“That really raises the stakes for marketers to reach consumers on other screens,” says Collective CMO Ed Dandridge. “Now more than ever marketers, in order to drive ROI, need to have a precise understanding of the space and be data-driven.”

It’s the foundational tenet underpinning “Life is but a screen,” Collective’s recently launched integrated self-promotion campaign targeted at C-suite marketers, CIOs, CFOs, and CEOs—basically the decision-makers and shakers who hold the marketing purse strings.

The campaign touts “Wherevertising,” Collective’s proprietary tool which aims to help users deliver coordinated media buys. In short, the marketing Holy Grail of right message, right place, right time, right format, right audience.

Buying time for a Super Bowl commercial is awesome—millions of people will see your zany beer ad—but included in that massive audience will invariably also be millions of people who won’t care. It can’t be helped.

“Most of television, almost all, is about buying content as a proxy,” says Dandridge. “By default, you’re buying a demographic which might not be relevant to you, and it’s as precise as you can get—but with digital, you can get great precision of audience.”

There’s no question digital targeting should be in every marketing mix—or at least on the mind of every marketer—but the last thing Collective wanted was for its campaign messaging to come off as intimidating.

“Every day these people see articles telling them if they’re not investing in mobile they’re quantum leaps behind everyone else,” says Griffin Stenger, partner at The Concept Farm. Stenger’s agency pitched in on a facet of the “Screen” campaign focusing on C-suite execs, in particular large advertising verticals with massive budgets like pharma, entertainment, retail, auto, and insurance. “The last thing these people need is disruption; they already feel disrupted.”

Cobblers know shoes (though their children probably don’t have any), and marketers know marketing, which is why “Life is but a screen” had to be spot on. Collective used a multichannel combination of online ads, mobile, geo-targeted OOH, video, and TV spots—one of which is running in the elevators of buildings where top Manhattan ad agencies have their offices—to demonstrate the benefits of Wherevertising to its target market of savvy marketers who need to embrace the new multiscreen reality while keeping an eye on the bottom line. The cornerstone of the campaign is an updated version of 1950s doo-wop classic “Life is but a dream” developed and sung by Collective Creative Director Britta Hoskins. (“Life is but a screen to keep you entertained and up-to-speed on news; to let you share your wish for those designer shoes, life is but a screen, sweetheart…”)

Yet another phase of Collective’s initiative specifically targets political campaign managers and media strategists in super-competitive Washington D.C. with a series of ads that weave smartphones into iconic pieces of art and place mobile devices into the hands of historic personages—the “early adopters of their time,” as Dandridge puts it. In one ad, for example, Machiavelli grasps an iPhone and iPad beside the tagline, “The end justifies the screens.”

Says H. Robert Greenbaum of Gale Martin Advertising, who collaborated on the copy: “Hey, the ads say, if we changed history back in the day, we can do it again for you and your candidates.”

Whether we’re talking CMOs or politicos, Dandridge says data’s the way to go.

“What’s been happening in the marketplace—just look at Omnicom and Publicis—is driven by the recognition that the real opportunity for marketers lies in a more strategic, integrated, programmatic approach,” says Dandridge. “It’s not just about buying thematic content like sports to reach men or reality shows to reach women—it’s about reaching an audience in a more precise way.”

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