Why The “Screens Theory” Doesn’t Hold Up

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A few years back, Kevin Roberts published his book, Sisomo: The Future on Screen.

His hypothesis was simple and widely embraced — the future of brands lies in distributing branded content via an endless range of new “screens,” each of which provides yet another outlet to capture the hearts (and occasionally minds) of a brand’s core audience.  The key, explains Roberts, is utilizing the tools of “screen” media: sight, sound and motion, or “sisomo.”

Ok, sounds harmless enough. Advertising is, after all, built on emotional appeals.  So let’s just… blow that out across all of these new channels. Right?

Well… not exactly.

The problem is that digital is not just another content distribution channel. It’s not that consumers’ core expectations and behaviors have changed dramatically, but that Digital itself is fundamentally different from other media in its very use and purpose.

sisomo_bookThe web and the mobile web were not built to rebroadcast a message, or a passive emotional experience (“sisomo,” if you will). And unlike television, print, and radio, the internet and mobile phones weren’t built with advertisers in mind. The web was created to facilitate a remote connection with another person’s computer, allowing for peer-to-peer communication in a way never possible before. And most of us can remember a time when a phone was, well, just a phone.

Truth is, there’s a reason why 99.98% of people haven’t clicked on your banner ad, and it’s because the fundamental purpose of the web revolves around utility, community, and democracy. The way in which information travels through these channels can no longer be art directed or copywritten.

The inherent flaw of the “Screens Theory” is that once we view the web as a “second screen” and mobile as a “third,” we lose sight of the unique power—and potential pitfalls—of each these channels. The Internet and mobile aren’t passive “screens” at all, but unique pathways into your consumers’ life. You can’t simply bombard consumers with sight, sound, and motion. They’ve offered you a seat at their dinner table. You need to behave as such.

The web is a place to build relationships, encourage participation, and create lasting connections with consumers. A campaign can no longer end with when a media flight does. A “big idea” is only big if it’s not temporary or disposable.

These days, consumers want and expect more, and it’s up to us as marketers to deliver on that demand. “Sisomo” and the “Screens Theory” may look good on a glossy, hard-bound book page, but today, all that matters is how it holds up to the reality of public opinion—online.

(Headline image credit: sisomo.com)