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An interesting piece in the Guardian caught my attention this week. The piece titled: ‘Why responsive ads are the future’, by Cameron Hulett at Undertone offered a useful insight into the promise of mobile advertising and why this isn’t yet translating to multiple screen ads.

In the piece, Cameron suggested that advertising is still typically purchased on a screen-by-screen basis, and highlighted the missed opportunities that this represents.

He confirmed: “This year 30m smartphones and nearly 10m tablets in the UK have generated one-third of online traffic, yet advertisers are still struggling to make digital ads cost-efficient across these new channels.

“Mobile specific spend alone will reach almost £1bn in the UK this year, according to eMarketer. While that signifies a growth of 90% within the past year, it is still a mere drop in the ocean in comparison with the expected total digital ad spend of £6.1bn. Two thirds of the UK population now own a smartphone and are being exposed to mobile advertising, so it would be easy to assume that mobile digital ad spend would have increased dramatically. The question is what’s holding back brands and publishers?”

The piece goes on: “Brands are suffering general banner ad fatigue, and this is especially the case on small screens. So instead of moving to mobile at the rate they should be, they are being attracted to rich media opportunities elsewhere, for example via video, where they can see the potential on tablets and the enhanced engagement that interactive canvases can bring.

For publishers it’s a slightly different story. The Association of Online Publisher’s Census last year found that 72% viewed the main barrier to mobile adoption to be the fragmentation of mobile devices, and just over half put it down to not having the in-house skills and resources to manage it.”

For my part, these arguments make complete sense, but is there a deeper issue that we as an industry are finding more difficult to overcome, whether ad-based or content development focused, that of channel blindness?

Those that have been part of the industry for the last 10-15 years have seen the development of channels via web, mobile, tablet, and not forgetting print, but consumers, at least in the case of those under 30, don’t really differentiate between these screens.

Whether accessing content via mobile, tablet, TV, Laptop/desktop, the channel isn’t the relevant element, the content is. Although design between these channels has and continues to differ due to technical boundaries, we need to see a screen as just that, a window to content, not a differentiated channel.

There may be plenty of people reading this thinking; “Well yes, but isn’t that obvious?” And I’d like to think it is, but the evidence suggests otherwise. The technology isn’t following this path yet.

I agree with the closing of the article, even avoiding the sales message…: “It’s time for publishers and brands to embrace the new technologies that enable cross channel campaigns to be delivered from a single creative unit. After all, they allow publishers and brands to deliver a unified message across multiple devices to consistently track traffic across platforms and ultimately reduce the time and cost associated with multi-screen campaigns.”

…but I think the message needs to be clearer: multiple screen engagement is essential, and designing campaigns and outreach for the specific technology is crucial, but the goal should be one story, one delivery, multiple screens.

This is facilitated via responsive design to a greater degree, but it’s the mindset behind the campaigns that needs to evolve, from mobile/web/TV specific, to content viewed through separate screens.

It should be the window to the content that changes, not the content itself.