“Second-screen” & “Cross-Screen”: there’s a difference.

Second Screen vs Cross Screen

With mobile converging with other media types so rapidly, it’s easy for new terms to spring up that are sometimes so close that they are used interchangeably. Sometimes this subtle confusion can lead to big misunderstandings about how emerging media is planned and bought.

Two such terms I’ve seen getting mixed up lately are “Second-Screen” and “Cross-Screen”. It’s no secret that mobile is now a powerful extension for online, TV and outdoor media as consumers are increasingly using their devices in almost constant conjunction with these.

Indeed, a new channel has forced its way into the media landscape by embracing mobile and outdoor and combining them to create a powerful hybrid I can only call “Location” for now. This is when mobile devices are used in conjunction with outdoor media types to produce a result that is measurably greater than the sum of the parts – not to mention a level of reporting not possible before.

So the “screens” in question are of course firstly the mobile device – and secondly then the TV, outdoor or desktop screen. “Second-screen” sounds exactly like what it is; an experience in which a consumer uses both screens together. Watching Game of Thrones while snapchatting crucial moments is increasingly commonplace. In outdoor, perhaps a mobile device is used to post an Instagram photo to a Times Square billboard.

A revolution has taken place recently with our old friend, Outdoor. I call it a re-imagination rather than a rejuvenation because the Outdoor of today is so different to what it was only 5 years ago to the point of being barely recognizable. Mobile has changed things entirely. A once almost entirely opaque channel can now be measured in great depth, sales and brand lift clearly mapped and an ongoing relationship with consumers achieved long after they have left the vicinity of the media.

So that brings me to the other one – “Cross-screen”. It is not the same thing. We now know through extensive testing that outdoor (Out Of Home) media acts as a primer for mobile media response and engagement. Folks tend to notice their mobile media more if they’ve seen a billboard beforehand. If you meet someone at an event and you’ve heard their name before, it makes for a smoother introduction. So too if you have seen a brand message in huge full color and then see its diminutive clone at the foot of your mobile app, there’s now a familiarity that we have shown leads people to interact at a higher rate.

So this means the consumer does not need to be viewing the mobile ad in the same place as the Out Of Home billboard for this phenomenon to have an effect. In fact, it can be much later that day when the consumer is in another place entirely that the combined impact of mobile and outdoor can be felt.

This is “cross-screen”: the influence that one screen has on the other. It DOES NOT require that the screens are viewed in conjunction or in the same place. But they are certainly linked, and today’s planning and serving technology can help us do everything from choosing the right audience, targeting on mobile only those who we know were near the outdoor ad and selecting the best time to retarget them.

Outdoor media no longer needs to be challenged on its lack of measurability or effectiveness. To be sure, it was never going to be able to solve its deficiencies alone, but now it has had the sense to embrace a rising titan that is mobile and the result for advertisers is truly exciting to watch.

Mike Gamaroff
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