The Future of Across-Screen Advertising, Part I -- Bill Harvey

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Symphony Advanced Media (aka SymphonyAM) and TiVo Research have announced a new partnership. They are building out joint sample size to allow the combination of TiVo/TRA’s purchase data driven ROI measurement with Symphony’s cross-screen passive audience actions measurement. The combination promises the ability to produce the most complete track of the stimulus events leading up to a significant response event. A picture says it best:

This is essentially the Holy Grail of Attribution Analytics. The chart above is in effect what is simulated by modelers performing attribution analytics. Some modelers use homemade formulas but the best utilize the same kinds of multiple regression statistics used by Mix (Marketing Mix Modeling). However, without the real data on a decent sample size such as TiVo/Symphony is aiming for, these exercises are really best estimates rather than true measurements. The actuals will enable the most profitable decisions and actions far more than modeled estimates, although both are better than the seat-of-the-pants approach, which has been the core technique of the industry since time immemorial.

Once we have that view of the world, what will we discover and what will we do differently? Probably a lot of things. One of them will be a new/old technique we might wind up calling Across-Screen Advertising: The practice of having advertiser content simultaneously on more than one of the screens the user is currently using.

Like every other “new” idea, it is old. Back in the 1980s the first “second screen” plays began to be seen, either with a single-purpose screen or a screen built into the TV remote control channel changer. Street wisdom of the era said that taking the consumer’s eyes off the main screen was a bad idea so none of these ideas ever flew.

Symphony has now reported that for 32% of the time in which people who own a smartphone and/or tablet are watching TV in primetime they are also using one of those other devices. And this figure climbs to 40% during ad pods.

This “rampant” level of usage led CBS’s David Poltrack and me to give a presentation at the ARF Audience Measurement conference last month. He kicked off by showing a slide of a huge football stadium with a humongous video screen. Dave is always in the Flow or Observer state and understands that to provoke a massive change in the way people do business you have to first take their mental set and change it. Using the analogy of an unprecedentedly large arena that could hold 15,000,000 people to describe a typical high-rated CBS series, he asked the ARF audience to think about what else they would do in the stadium -- besides put an ad on the video screen -- to take advantage of such an opportunity.

Personally, I thought about introducing a new beverage that the hot dog peddlers would deliver at an introductory discount, with the vendors singing along with the commercial while it was on the giant screen. Plus messages with the same song appearing on built-in screens in front of each seat and the attendees’ own smartphones and tablets if they happen to have them open at the time.

Dave effectively got people to think out of the box and to wonder about doing the same thing in people‘s living rooms where they really can reach 15,000,000 people at the same time via the smartphones and tablets and even laptops that some TV viewers are often using while watching TV.

In my next post: Actual results of Across-Screen Advertising.

Bill Harvey is a well-known media researcher and inventor who co-founded TRA, Inc. and is itsBill HarveyStrategic Advisor. His nonprofit Human Effectiveness Institute runs his weekly blog on consciousness optimization. Bill can be contacted at

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