“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign…blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind”
– Five Man Electrical Band, 1970
What a quaint premise. Static signs asking for a moment of our attention. Directional traffic signs, warnings, roadside billboards, labels on packages.
Today, we’re bombarded not just with signs, but with moving, screaming, beautiful pictures on screens of every size. From the 272 by 340 pixel display of an Apple Watch to that gigantic 75-inch 4K display in your living room to gigantic 20-foot LED Google Home ads on the Vegas strip to the digital dash in your car, your attention is pulled in a million directions.
As a marketer or content creator, this creates unique challenges but also incredible opportunities to leverage the multitude of screens to deliver one-of-a-kind messages based on who’s watching what screen.
Nowhere are these challenges (and opportunities) more prevalent than digital and video content. When I first began creating websites, the singular focus was on providing a consistent user experience across a handful of browsers and operating systems. Today, we design websites to respond uniquely to the screens on which they’re being viewed: a website on a desktop or laptop browser functions differently than one on a smart phone or tablet. The navigation needs to accommodate a touch interface on smaller devices, and too many navigation options make it hard for a user to drill down to deeper pages. Columnar layout is trickier for smart phones because it can result in unwieldy copy. I could list another 20 things that differentiate design on screens of varying sizes, but you get my point.
On the video front, VVS (informally known as vertical video syndrome – where one shoots video on a smart phone held vertically) was frowned upon because when filming a subject, a horizontal screen doesn’t allow for the “full picture.” Not so much anymore, because so much of the video shot on a smart phone is shared on social platforms via mobile devices (think Snapchat), and even square video is now the norm on platforms such as Instagram. Just a couple of years ago, it was unthinkable to produce a professional video in anything other than a 16:9 resolution. Today, when shooting video for a spot, we need to think about the multitude of aspect ratios in order to maximize visibility across platforms and screens.
All this is to say that the next marketing project you (the client) think about launching, consider your audience and where they will be most likely viewing your campaign. Will it be on a smart phone while sitting on the Metro? Will it be primarily via a desktop browser or an email in Outlook in an office setting? Planning for these factors will go a long way in determining the effectiveness, reach and success of your campaign.