Will sequential messaging take a foothold on the advertising and marketing sectors?

What does a typical night-in look like in 2014? X Factor on the TV? Youtube during the breaks on an iPad? A constant stream of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram updates in-between? There’s also email and texts to check, not to mention all those WhatsApp messages flying back and forth.

Ask a digital advertiser about the biggest challenges they see ahead and they’re likely to tell you it’s this type of ‘dual screening’. Or, more accurately, it’s the inability of advertising to follow consumers as they hop from one device to the next. But all that could be about to change…Yes, welcome to the Brave New World of Sequential Messaging!

For the uninitiated, sequential messaging is the ability for marketing communications to leap between screens – for a campaign to play out in a chronological succession that builds from an initial touch point on TV, then across Twitter and so forth, dependent on a consumer’s next point of interaction with digital media.

Currently, the ad industry relies on desktop cookies as the main way of determining the type of personalised ads to feed a consumer. But as we all know, the system is at best clunky.

How many people recognise this sequence:

  • Go online and book tickets from thetrainline.com
  • Finish booking and move to web-based email provider like Outlook
  • Do your emailing while being served ads for the train service that has just been booked

Sequential ads, the theory goes, would be more responsive and in-tune to a consumer’s individual needs. All that is required is a move away from cookies-based profiling to a system that tracks users with unique IDs as they log-in to different devices or digital platforms.

What sounds like an Orwellian nightmare for some, is an opportunity others see as wholly necessary to tie together a user’s multiple accounts and to make sense of TV advertising as more people stream and download through mobile devices. As media headhunters, we think sequential messaging could have a profound impact on the advertising/marketing sector if a technology can be devised to make it work in a seamless way.

Although that technology and the coordination required to make sequential messaging a reality isn’t there yet, according to some, it isn’t far way. In fact, as the traditional separation of advertising between digital and TV closes rapidly, it may be little more than months before sequential messaging starts to make an appearance.

Image of Twitter bird logo

Media executive search: Picture thanks to CreativeTools.se

Microsoft has already developed ID software to target users of its Surface tablets and is among those developing sequential messaging capabilities, according to Ad Week.

The benefit to the advertising industry of sequential messaging isn’t just that it could neatly tie several social media accounts to a single individual. The industry is getting excited as it could also mean a reduction in campaign spending. Research by MarketShare Partner (highlighted by Marketing Week) claims that if brands can enhance TV spots with social ads, such as promoted tweets, thy can lower their cost per acquisition by 38 per cent.

Whatever the true state of technological readiness, or the actual benefits to advertisers of bringing their campaigns across devices and platforms, the digital ad industry is ready to make the change.

“Entering 2014,” claims a recent eMarketer report. “Most would agree cross-platform marketing has become a must for any company hoping to reach consumers on their terms.”

A must yes, but an achievable must in the next 12-months? Well, that depends.

First, a reliable technology has to be in place to allow such cross-platform marketing. Then marketers have to be able to accurately attribute costs against the success of these campaigns. And in an world where firm data is increasingly the measure by which new campaigns get the green light, getting hold of accurate cross-platform attribution may prove to be the bigger barrier to widespread implementation.