Using Tech to Tell Stories

by Jessica Hawthorne-Castro on Aug 25, 2016 12:00:00 AM Digital Marketing, DRTV, e-Commerce

Using_Tech_to_Tell_Stories-026785-edited.jpgThe idea of telling a complete, comprehensive brand story across multiple advertising mediums and mechanisms isn’t new, but it is an area that more marketers are examining in their attempts to engage today’s distracted consumers. Equipped with myriad tools for researching, finding, and buying goods online and offline, today’s consumers demand an omnichannel experience that’s as seamless as it is effective.

That’s where omnichannel storytelling enters the picture. Defined as a marketer’s ability to develop powerful marketing messaging that fully engages and captivates an audience across multiple media channels, omnichannel storytelling finds companies leveraging content-rich messages that do more than just sell a product or service. These messages tell a story, and they tell it well—better than any single advertising or marketing effort can.

But what if such storytelling could be taken to a new level by folding technology into the equation? And what if this new level of storytelling did a better job of engaging customers and encouraging them to learn more, buy more, or otherwise heed the call to action? The rewards would probably be significant, and the results would far surpass those of a basic omnichannel effort.

Getting Smart

While marketers have been using integrated, omnichannel campaigns for years, what they haven’t been doing is leveraging analytics, metrics, and other accountability measures in a way that makes their storytelling efforts more powerful and engaging. With the advent of connected or “smart” TVs, however, marketers can incorporate these metrics into campaigns, truly measure the impact of omnichannel storytelling, tweak their efforts, and adjust campaigns accordingly.

There’s already a small amount of testing taking place on smart TVs, which connect to the internet in order to access applications such as Netflix, Hulu, and Facebook. More than 35 million households are projected to have smart TVs by the end of this year, and to harness them, marketers will need to create tools that can test and track web conversion rates. Providers are already doing this in numerous markets; working with internet protocol (IP) addresses, their systems track data on consumer television sets and all other devices that connect to the same Wi-Fi network.

Such a setup provides scalability by measuring viewers’ actual activities without the need for complex algorithms or multichannel measurement tools—only the smart TV. According to Accenture, 61 percent of consumers plan to buy a connected TV, and 87 percent of consumers use more than one device at a time. Combine the two statistics, and it’s easy to see why a one-to-one connection that measures viewers’ web habits while viewing TV is such a powerful tool for marketers that use omnichannel storytelling strategies.

If a large percentage of U.S. households signs up for and uses a smart TV platform, the data produced will be far better than that produced by any current method of measuring cross-platform efforts—most of which are based on small samples of viewers. Marketers can vastly improve their knowledge of how people connect the dots across devices, and while it may sound cutting-edge in mid-2016, cross-device tracking and attribution will continue to expand its influence and provide greater insights into consumer behavior.

To leverage this opportunity—or prepare for a time when more providers offer it—marketers need to develop creative content that extends across all of their channels. There are, of course, privacy issues that need to be addressed; not everyone will want their activities tracked and measured as they navigate among devices. In the end, though, the day when marketers can develop omnichannel campaigns and track the results effectively across channels is not far off.

Every CMO is concerned about advertising accountability, and the smart TV concept should be music to their ears. Being able to “back into” the numbers using advanced analytics will improve companies’ confidence in determining where responses come from.

We’ve only scratched the surface in terms of potential and promise. We look forward to a time when we can adjust campaigns by extracting the data from the devices themselves, rather than relying on complex algorithms. With such data at our fingertips, marketers will be able to take their storytelling to an entirely new level.

Photo by Stoonn/

Jessica Hawthorne-Castro is chairman and CEO of Hawthorne Direct.

The above originally appeared as the Agency Insights column in the July-August 2016 issue of ER magazine.

Jessica Hawthorne-Castro's blog
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