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SECOND SCREENS AND SOCIAL TV – Making waves in the broadcast world

Second screening is the new way to consume broadcast content, with companies beginning to look at ways to control the way consumers second screen – and how to make money out of it. George Cole provides an overview of this 21st century viewing trend.

Second screen is making waves in the broadcast, social media and video worlds. In essence, second screen involves using a second display device, like a smartphone, laptop or tablet, while watching television. Many people are now second screening: research by Nielsen found that 70% of tablet users and 68% of smartphone owners used their device while watching television.

“There are a lot of stats that show that a very large percentage of people who watch TV are doing it with a second screen on their lap,” says Chuck Parker, former Chief Commercial Officer of Technicolor. “Now there’s some debate about whether they are using the second screen for emailing or checking their bank balance, but there a large percentage who are on their Twitter feeds doing a realtime search on the TV show they’re watching or using Facebook to tell their friends what they’re watching. The TV and video industries are excited because this is a shift in consumer behaviour, and it’s probably the first time you can demonstrate to advertisers and content makers that real engagement is taking place.”

Social TV is a second screen activity. “Social TV is digital interaction between people about television content or their digital interaction with that content,” says Colin Donald, Director of research company Futurescape. He adds that the concept of Social TV is not new. “Television has always had a significant social dimension, as with viewing: together in the living room and having water cooler conversations at work. One key reason that Social TV participation is growing is because it meets some of our most fundamental social needs, such as self-expression and affiliation with others through shared cultural references.”

Dan Cryan, Senior Analyst, Head of Broadband Media, at media research company IHS Screen Digest, agrees: “You now have a collection of companies who are tapping into a very well established mode of behaviour, with media companies trying to engage with this and maintain their relevance on the second screen.” Jeremy Toeman, Chief Product Officer, Dijit Media, says, “We’re seeing a lot of attempts to digitally harness the chatter around TV, much as the early days of ‘social media’ attempted to capture conversations around a myriad of topics.”

A poll conducted by the digital marketing agency Digital Clarity of more than 1,300 people under the age of 25 in the UK found that 80% of those surveyed use a mobile device to communicate with friends while watching TV, with 72% using Twitter, Facebook or mobile applications, to actively comment on shows as they are watching them. In the US, a Nielsen/Yahoo study found that more than 86% of mobile internet users communicated with each other in real-time during TV broadcasts. Reggie James, founder of Digital Clarity, says, “TV shows with small audiences can generate enormous traffic on Twitter. Social TV is a new platform for engaging with a TV show and has turned TV programmes into online events.”


The Social TV market is being driven by several factors: the massive growth of social network sites like Facebook and Twitter, the wide availability of broadband in homes, and the vast sales of connected devices like smartphones and tablets. Futuresource Consulting says that global shipments of tablets reached 15.5 million units in Q3 2011, compared with 4.5 million for the same period in 2010 – Apple accounted for 70% of tablet shipments in the US.

Many see the tablet as the perfect form factor for second screen usage. “The tablet is the device for the living room and the most socially acceptable device,” says Ajay Shah, CEO of TV Plus, a TV web browser company. “The tablet screen is parallel to the ground, whereas the screen on a smartphone or laptop is perpendicular, and closed off from others.”

Many parties are jostling for position in the second screen market including broadcasters, film studios, television manufacturers, advertisers, social network sites, technology developers, and start-up companies developing apps for second screen activities. “New DNA is coming into the broadcast world,” notes Alex Terpstra, CEO of technology company Civolution. “Broadcasters tend not to innovate quickly, but start-ups develop things fast. It will be exciting to see how things go.”

Start-up company zeebox has developed a second screen app. A survey of 5,000 people by zeebox and Lightspeed found that most people still watch live television, rather than recorded, but that there was much dissatisfaction with the medium, says Anthony Rose, zeebox co-founder and CTO. “People are frustrated with live television because it hasn’t kept up with the pace of innovation. On a computer, you can use Skype, email and watch a video, but TV just beams out at you. We found that 57% got around this frustration by using a second screen, and of these, 60% were using the second screen for a programme-related activity, such as doing a Google search on an actor.”

Little wonder that some broadcasters and programme makers have developed apps, websites or platforms to cater for the second screen. HBO Connect is a Social TV platform for fans of HBO programmes, where they can sign-in using their Facebook or Twitter account and discuss HBO shows with others. Ten US broadcast groups, including Barrington, Hearst and Raycomm, have formed a partnership with Social TV start-up ConnecTV. The broadcasting groups cover 76 million households and more than 200 stations, such as ABC, CBS and Fox. UK commercial broadcasters ITV and Channel 4 are developing second screen apps.

“Television companies throughout the value chain have good reason to support Social TV because they see its potential to increase ratings and therefore advertising revenue; boost pay-TV and video-on-demand income, and also work with paid transactions, such as talent show voting and merchandise sales,” says Donald. In US TV, there are ad breaks 18 minutes in every hour, but this level of advertising is not possible on a second screen device, notes Aslam Khader, Chief Technology and Product Officer for technology company Ensequence. “And so finding a way to monetize the second screen audience is difficult. The content industry wants second screen to augment the TV experience and not replace it.”

Connected TV (also known as Smart TV) systems are increasingly incorporating Social TV: many connected TV sets have Facebook and Twitter apps pre-installed. Donald observes: “Pay- TV operators are upgrading their set-tops for Social TV functionality, while the Xbox and PlayStation game consoles have their own social networks and can access third-party social networks; major tech companies such as Google, Yahoo and Microsoft are providing the software to enable connected TV and, with it, Social TV.”


he technology behind second screen products and systems is often quite complex, not least because most rely on apps and the ability to synchronize the television program with the second screen device. Chuck Parker classifies second screen app functions into various types. The first, which he calls ‘Simple’, is designed to make the first screen easier to navigate, with functions like an advanced remote control. ‘Social’ integrates with the various social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. ‘Seamless’ integrates multiple services into the experience such as Hulu, Netflix, and an operator’s VOD service. ‘Stimulating’ creates a more in-depth experience with the TV content, such as sports stats, related news events, commerce experiences, and associated advertising. ‘Discovery’ provides relevant suggestions to content you might enjoy. Another app feature is ‘Search’. Most second screen apps offer several or more of these features.

The key to synchronizing the TV program and the second screen device is a system known as automatic content recognition or ACR. One system, audio watermarking, adds inaudible data to the soundtrack in a way that combines sound and data into a single entity. “The advantage is that wherever the sound goes the watermark goes,” says Civolution’s Alex Terpstra. The second screen device uses a built-in microphone to pick up the TV sound and combined watermark. Watermark detection software on the second screen device analyzes the sound, finds the watermark and can retrieve any information within it. This information could include a channel identifier or even a content identifier, so the second screen device knows, for example, that ‘I’m now syncing with The X-Factor on Channel 9’. The information also contains time codes, which enable the second screen device to remain in sync with the TV content.

Audio fingerprinting involves the second screen device picking up the TV sound, but this time, no extra information is added to the sound. Fingerprinting works by analyzing unique features from the content and comparing them to a database of reference fingerprints to find a match. Fingerprinting requires the second screen devices to generate fingerprints from the TV sound, which are matched against reference fingerprints, which are often stored in the cloud. “Watermarking requires modifying content, but fingerprinting requires a reference database and an infrastructure for second screen devices to be able to access it,” says Terpstra. In both ACR systems, there’s no requirement for the first and second screen devices to communicate with each other via an internet connection.

However, a third synchronization system involves the television and second screen device syncing with each other through a shared Wi-Fi connection, although this system is rarely used, as most TVs don’t have internet connectivity. Sony’s Blu-ray second screen system is known as a vertically controlled environment, and uses a shared Wi-Fi connection to sync the second screen device with a BD Live-enabled Blu-ray player. If Wi-Fi synchronization is unavailable, Sony offers a manual sync option. But not every second screen system relies on synchronization technology. Start-up company Starling has no plans to use synchronization, says its CEO Declan Caulfield. “When we examined what a sample of second screen users said about synchronization, it was interesting to note that many reactions were negative, especially if the synchronization technology didn’t work. It looks like magic when a device tells you what TV show you’re watching, but all it’s doing is telling you something you already know. When people come together to chat about a TV program, there’s already a high degree of synchronization between them.”


A number of Hollywood studios have also developed second screen-enabled Blu-ray titles, which come with extra content that is viewed on the second screen. The studios hope that by providing second screen content only on sell- through titles, consumers will purchase rather than rent. Disney has launched a handful of second screen titles including Bambi and Tron Legacy, while Universal’s second screen titles like Fast Five and Tower Heist use a pocket Blu app, which allows an iPhone to control the Blu-ray title, and gives access to extra content related to the movie. The pocket Blu app also works with an iPad, iPod Touch, Android smartphones and tablets, PCs and Macs.

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Smurfs Blu-ray release offers Smurf-O-Vision second screen fun activities. The Weinstein Company’s The King’s Speech uses Technicolor’s MediaEcho second screen app for features such as bonus streaming audio and video content, audio commentary excerpts, behind the scenes information, actor profiles, connection to IMDB and other online databases, social media integration and e-commerce.

Jim Bottoms, Director, Futuresource Consulting, says that while he can see a compelling case for live TV shows embracing the second screen, the jury is still out for Blu-ray titles, “There’s a lot of experimentation going on – it’s like the early days of BD Live. The challenge is whether there’s something people can be doing that relates to the movie at the same time. It’s not proven that consumers want it.”

Some second screen apps, like Yahoo’s IntoNow, require second screen users to check-in and notify their friends what they’re watching, but most systems use what Shah describes as “deep engagement,” which can automatically connect users to others watching the same television show, for example, by displaying Twitter feeds related to the programme.

Cinram’s 1K Studios is developing a second screen app for Blu-ray titles, and Matt Kennedy, 1K Studios President, says that while second screen apps are currently used to support the TV content, he foresees a time when, “The app could provide the primary content on your second screen device, and the film on the television screen is the supporting content.”

Some wonder if second screen will turn out to be a fad or something that is used only by younger (under 35) consumers. But few think that second screen will disappear, and Shah says, “With most new technologies, it’s the young people who embrace it first. But then it spreads to adjacent demographics and beyond. Facebook started out with a college demographic – today, the fastest growing user base is people over 60.”


Still many questions remain, including: who are the likely winners and losers in the second screen market? Shay Fan a member of the marketing team at Miso, a social TV platform, says, “Success will come when someone figures out the magic formula for ‘stickiness’ – something that will make users want to stay and interact with content. With so much competing for our attention, it will be a difficult, crowded industry.”

Toeman adds, “I think all the traditional players will remain winners for quite some time to come, it’s their game to lose really. This is a big challenging space, and I think success will come from the companies who best understand what consumers actually want to do with their time and how they enjoy watching TV. Those who are trying to shape or shift behaviours will have an uphill battle, as well as those who pay too much attention to hype, and not enough to reality.”



IDate released an innovation report called “Social Video” which addresses the power of Social Networks to TV channels and online video services.

The video site rolled out an upgrade which now includes sharing, recommendations, ratings and Facebook streaming tools.

“Thanks to these new features, Wat has expanded the social dimension of its service and is offering users a richer and more engaging experience by capitalizing on the popularity of the globe’s biggest social network (more than 400 million members),” says IDATE senior consultant, S. Girieud, while pointing out that, “this partnership with Facebook should help attract and keep new users and/or generate more traffic on the online video platform, and so help boost the ad-based monetization of its inventory”.

IDate forecasts that the following process will lead to the ad-based monetization of the inventory:

By integrating a major social network’s most popular tools (Facebook’s Live Feed, Twitter’s tweets), free online TV/video services such as TV channel Web sites, VOD services and video sharing platforms can offer their users a richer viewing experience. Better experiences in turn help create and retain audience and/or additional traffic (more visits and visitors, more time spent, more page views) and thereby generate more ad revenue from a site’s inventory.

The “Social Video” report addresses the following key questions:

• How can TV channels integrate social networking sites into their broadcasting strategies?
• Can social networks help free online TV and video services pull in enough additional advertising revenue?
• Will the social graph be a new performance driver for pay-VOD recommendations systems?
• How can social networks gain from these closer relationships with players in the TV and video industry?
• What strategies are being used by the key TV channels, free online TV and video service providers, pay-VOD players and social networking sites?


PHILO, the social television platform that is (re)inventing television by giving TV fans a new way to watch and interact with their favorite shows, announced today that it has completed financing with a consortium of institutional and angel investors.  Also today, PHILO made two new product introductions.  The company officially launched v.1.2 of its iPhone and iPod Touch app, which now supports check-in to time-shifted television content.  In addition, PHILO debuted its social TV Web application, available at

North Bridge Venture Partners and DFJ Gotham Ventures are among PHILO’s institutional investors.  North Bridge’s Dayna Grayson, who joined PHILO’s Board of Directors, noted, “We have spent a lot of time in the digital media space and are big believers in the future of social and interactive television.  We are extremely excited to support PHILO in exploiting this burgeoning opportunity.”  In addition to the institutional investors, several others contributed to the financing including ENIAC Ventures and Studio Lambert CEO, Stephen Lambert, one of the most prolific worldwide television format executive producers/creators whose credits include the award-winning “Wife Swap,” “Faking It,” “Secret Millionaire” and, most recently, “Undercover Boss.”

“We are honored to be supported by such an established and well-regarded group of institutional and angel investors,” stated David Levy, Co-Founder and CEO of PHILO.  Levy added, “We launched PHILO to the public just over a month ago and already the response from users and media companies has been outstanding.  PHILO changes the way people approach, watch, and interact with television.  The possibilities for real time social interaction, content discovery, and promotional opportunities are nearly limitless.”

The new PHILO iPhone and iPod Touch app features a number of enhancements, which are also reflected in the all-new PHILO Web app.  For example:

  • Users now can tune-in to and comment on DVR’d shows as well as live programming.
  • With the new iPhone/iPod push notifications, when friends tune in, users receive alerts delivered to their handhelds even if they’re not currently playing PHILO.
  • PHILO’s new and improved activity stream lets users see how friends and other viewers are tuning in, commenting, winning awards, and earning credits.
  • PHILO added more awards for viewing behavior (some secret and some not so secret), which send users on a virtual scavenger hunt through television programming.
  • New “credits” like Director and Executive Producer let users climb the Hollywood ranks on their favorite shows by tuning in and interacting more than other viewers.
  • And, of course, the new app is optimized for iOS4.

Whether it’s a sporting event, a reality show, a prime time soap or the latest episode of a beloved sci-fi hit, PHILO turns every episode of every television series into an instantaneous group version of “Mystery Science Theater 3000” for users and their friends.  The result is an even more engaging version of television as we know it.  Built into PHILO is a series of fun interactive games as well as prizes that users can unlock as they meet up with friends and check in to more television shows.

PHILO is available in the App Store here, and the download is free.

Best (and worst) social TV moments of the Oscars

This year’s Academy Awards on ABC was infused with social media and second-screen experiences, top to bottom. So much so, we were juggling apps and devices — three different hosted live streams during the red carpet show — which was a bit out of control. While the show didn’t offer many (if any) smashing viral moments, there were some terrific second-screen developments and a few memorable social media tidbits.

(Update: The Oscars falls well short of social TV records Super Bowl and Grammys)

Best on-screen Twitter integration goes to…

Last year, it was news when the #Oscars hashtag appeared on the screen. This year, that’s par for the course, but a red carpet Twitter integration caught our eye. Users were asked to tweet with #bestdressed and the name of the celebrity to vote for their favorites. Every 30 minutes or so, the red carpet hosts announced the top three, in a simple bottom-third graphic (below). It was easy, clean and consistent with the show. There have been hashtag votes in other shows before, but I think this illustrates how you don’t always need a big trending dashboard thing to make Twitter a valuable interactive element of a show.

Biggest Oscars publicity stunt…

“Part of me thought he’d be up to something,” Ryan Seacrest said live on E! after Sasha Baron Cohen, dressed as “The Dictator,” dumped fake ashes on him. “When someone asks what you’re wearing, you’ll tell them Kim Jong Il!” Cohen yelled. Other than the fashions, this stunt was the subject of many red carpet tweets.

Oscars moment that turned into a Twitter account…

The best second-screen experience goes to…

There are a few winners here. During pre-show, we liked the IntoNow experience (below) that gave users the ability to “like” or “dislike” fashions by displaying photos (with about a 5-10 minute delay) from the red carpet. After you voted, you could see how others reacted.

During the show itself, the Oscars app provided multiple backstage live streams and a hosted experience, too. We found it distracting during the show — unless there was a particular winner we wanted to track backstage (after all, producers cut off people after about 30 seconds at the microphone.) For example, when the emotional Octavia Spencer left the stage, we watched as she made her way backstage, could barely talk into the “thank you” camera, then went to the press room for more. You could watch in a six-screen split (our favorite) or watch the ticker to see what was happening on various cameras. Very well done.

Also during the show, Viggle surprised us the most. The TV rewards app provided a slick real-time poll (below) that’s one of the best second-screen experiences we’ve seen. Perfectly in time with the broadcast, Viggle asked for predictions the moment a presenter approached the stage. It locked the votes seconds before they were read. Then it displayed the winner (awarding points accordingly) moments after it was announced. In each case, it prompted the user with a sound effect — the sound of a projector — which could be disabled easily. During other moments, it served up trivia questions (and you could get hints via Bing searches — yep, it was sponsored Bing.) All in all, the points all added up to real rewards.

On the conversation front, Twitter wins again. Twitter’s owned apps and may not be perfect, but they’re still better than other second-screen apps with Twitter clients for posting tweets. And definitely better than other second-screen apps running on their own discussion platform that have yet to gain any scale — those apps weren’t empty rooms this time, but the quality of discussion was dramatically lacking. This time, Twitter even pulled together its own list of live-tweeters for the show — probably not the last time we’ll see Twitter organizing content production (instead of just platform technology) around live events.

The best new second-screen feature is…

Umami rolled out a feature before the Oscars that’s one of the best we’ve seen on the second screen: a simple way to “screen grab” an image of what you’re watching on TV and sharing it with your friends (below). Umami lets you sync with the broadcast, then click “freeze frame” to choose from several images snapped from the broadcast over the last 30 seconds or so. Pick one, then share it out with your friends. Snazzy.

Weirdest second-screen moment is…

At one moment during the red carpet pre-show, I was watching three live streams at the same time — all hosted by different people — on TV, online and the Oscars app. And at one point, Milla Jovovich was “live” on two separate streams at once. Hmmm.

During the show, the official account @theAcademy tweeted gems like this one. Over and over again. (Spoiler alert? Now if it tweeted who won several minutes in advance, THAT would be a spoiler.) Not to mention, the upcoming presenter was already teased minutes before on TV, and in this case, Tina Fey had already been on the air for several minutes by the time it appeared in my tweet stream.

7 Things You Should Never Do During An Interview

With the job market extremely tight, even the small stuff counts, especially when you’re on a job interview. That’s why it’s so important not to say or do the wrong things, since that first impression could end up being the last one.


With that in mind, here are seven deadly sins of job interviewing.

1. Don’t Be Late To the Interview

Even if you car broke down or the subway derailed, do everything you can to get to that job interview on time.

“If you have a legitimate excuse it’s still hard to bounce back,” says Pamela Skillings, co-founder of job coaching firm Skillful Communications. “People are suspicious because they hear the same excuses all the time.”

On the flip side, you don’t want to show up too early and risk appearing desperate, but you do want to be there at least five minutes early or at the very least on time.

2. Don’t Show Up Unprepared

It seems simple, but countless people go on job interviews knowing very little about the company they are interviewing with when all it would take is a simple Google search to find out. As a result, they end up asking obvious questions, which signal to the interviewer that they are too lazy to prepare.

“Don’t ask if the company is public or private, how long it’s been in business and where they do their manufacturing,” says Mark Jaffe, president of Wyatt & Jaffe, the executive search firm. “Sharpen your pencil before you go to school.”

3. Don’t Ask About Salary, Benefits, Perks

Your initial interview with a company shouldn’t be about what the company can do for you, but what you can do for the company. Which means the interview isn’t the time to ask about the severance package, vacation time or health plan. Instead you should be selling yourself as to why the company can’t live without you.

“Your interest should be about the job and what your responsibilities will be,” says Terry Pile, Principal Consultant of Career Advisors. “Asking about vacation, sick leave, 401K, salary and benefits should be avoided at all costs.”

4. Don’t Focus On Future Roles Instead Of The Job At Hand

The job interview is not the time or place to ask about advancement opportunities or how to become the CEO. You need to be interested in the job you are actually interviewing for. Sure, a company wants to see that you are ambitious, but they also want assurances you are committed to the job you’re being hired for.

“You can’t come with an agenda that this job is just a stepping stone to bigger and better things,” says Jaffe.

5. Don’t Turn The Weakness Question Into A Positive

To put it bluntly, interviewers are not idiots. So when they ask you about a weakness and you say you work too hard or you are too much of a perfectionist, chances are they are more apt to roll their eyes than be blown away. Instead, be honest and come up with a weakness that can be improved on and won’t ruin your chances of getting a job.

For instance, if you are interviewing for a project management position, it wouldn’t be wise to say you have poor organizational skills, but it’s ok to say you want to learn more shortcuts in Excel. “Talk about the skills you don’t have that will add value, but aren’t required for the job,” says Pile.

6. Don’t Lie

Many people think its ok to exaggerate their experience or fib about a firing on a job interview, but lying can be a surefire way not to get hired. Even if you get through the interview process with your half truths, chances are you won’t be equipped to handle the job you were hired to do. Not to mention the more you lie the more likely you are to slip up.

“Don’t exaggerate, don’t make things bigger than they are and don’t claim credit for accomplishments you didn’t do,” says Jaffe. “You leave so much room in your brain if you don’t have to fill it with which lie you told which person.”

7. Don’t Ask If There’s Any Reason You Shouldn’t Be Hired

Well meaning career experts will tell you to close your interview by asking if there is any reason you wouldn’t be hired. While that question can give you an idea of where you stand and afford you the opportunity to address any concerns, there’s no guarantee the interviewer is going to be truthful with you or has even processed your information enough to even think about that.

“All you are doing is prompting them to think about what’s wrong with you,” says Skillings.

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Facebook’s newly redesigned Timelines represent a richer creative canvas for brands. Which is great, assuming anyone is visiting. Guest columnists Joshua Teixeira and Victor Piñeiro from Big Spaceship remind marketers to extend their social strategy beyond the Page.


The crown jewel of Facebook’s first fMC conference, Brand Timelines, is being touted as “the richest, most customizable marketing canvas ever created.” Judging by the hype that’s flooded the Internet since their unveiling, marketers agree: This is apparently Facebook’s most important development since Open Graph. Brands now have the opportunity to craft a richer story on the platform and build a more inviting destination site that lives inside the smaller Internet we call Facebook. And yet, among the avalanche of articles full of tips and best practices, most marketers have been silent about an elephant in the room.

Nobody actually visits your brand’s Facebook page.

According to comScore, Starbucks generated 156 impressions across Facebook (via content and media) for every 1 person that actually visited their page. Vitrue has found that the news feed is 110 times more engaging than a brand’s page, tabs, or apps. Yet even those numbers sound significantly higher than the traffic many of us see in the brands we manage socially–not to mention the more precipitous drop in traffic when one considers tabs and apps besides the brand’s wall (now Timeline).

Of course, the argument could be made that Timelines’ design and feature set might change all of this, and finally succeed in sending your audience to your brand’s page. But what do Brand Timelines actually bring to the table? On the one hand, a cover photo gives brands a bit more to play with visually–though it also pushes actual content down on the page so that most of it is below the fold. Tabs and apps are now highlighted on a strip below the photo, though some argue that this makes them harder to find and less inviting than the sidebar menu. And the ability to pin a post to the top of your Timeline lets you highlight your most important content, though the new design means that all of your other content will move down the page faster–too fast if you’re letting fans post on your wall.

And then there’s the Timeline feature itself, which does open up interesting storytelling opportunities, allowing you to chronicle your brand’s history by highlighting specific milestones. But are these features enough to finally rip fans away from their walls and send them venturing to your page?

Not without a strong value-add and pull strategy from your brand. Facebook users’ core behavior is going to stay rooted on their wall for the foreseeable future, so continue prioritizing your editorial strategy, unless Facebook Insights tell a different story. In fact, the real star of the fMC is Facebook’s Reach Generator, which guarantees that 75% of your fans actually see your content (versus the approximately 15-20% that currently see it). Alongside new Premium Ads, which repurpose editorial content as paid media, they make a strong case for keeping your focus where it should be: on adding authentic value to your fan base through social posts.

There are some brands that inherently make sense with Timelines, and will be able to offer rich experiences that could bring fans flocking to their pages. The New York Times has given us a dazzling retrospective of our last 150 years told through the history of their newsroom. Other brands will have to come up with clever campaigns around the Timeline. Fanta is the first out the gate with a strong concept, inviting its audience to chase its characters through their Timeline, dropping clever hints and letting their fans do the hunting.

However, few Timeline-centric campaigns will deliver results unless Facebook’s entire new suite of tools is used to create an internal ecosystem with social, spreadable content at the center. Resist Shiny Object Syndrome. It’s tempting to fixate on perfecting your brand’s story on your new destination page, but nobody will be listening to your story without a well-thought-out invitation–hopefully one to participate.

Joshua Teixeira is Director of Strategy and Victor Piñeiro is Senior Strategist at digital agency, Big Spaceship.

[Image: 2Happy/Shutterstock]

The Key To A Unified Brand: A Consistent UI





I recently went online to pay a credit card bill with a well-known financial institution. Upon logging in, I was presented with a promotional advertisement for the company’s iPad application. As a designer, I was naturally curious as to how the app differed from the Web experience, assuming it might just surpass my expectations. And why not? The iPad presents a blank slate on which many organizations can create a unique experience free from legacy constraints inherent in a long-standing Web application. With this in mind, I quickly abandoned my bill-paying task to download the application on the iPad. A few minutes later, I was happily logged in and navigating the iPad application.

The interface was slick. But there was one major issue: I couldn’t do what I originally set out to do–I couldn’t pay my bill. Not only that, but the iPad app had a completely different look and feel from the Web application. Ultimately, it was a confusing and disappointing experience and convinced me to stick with the bank’s old-school Web interface for the foreseeable future.

How does this happen? My hunch is that this design fail was the result of designing in a vacuum. This generally happens in one of two ways:

  1. “Expert” design: When the design of a product (or service) is considered without understanding the needs of those who will be using it. While there are cases where expert design may be appropriate, it’s also quite risky. Without user insight and feedback, you have little way of knowing whether your new product will resonate with its intended audience, yet it happens all the time.
  2. Siloed design: When the design of a product (or service) occurs without a truly cross-functional and collaborative team effort–that is, when design happens in its own functional silo within an organization. Not surprisingly, the finished product doesn’t necessarily mirror what the designer had intended.

At EffectiveUI, we see examples of this all the time. Aside from the fact that large organizations struggle to understand their customers’ needs as they relate to a changing digital ecosystem, these organizations also create (or inherit) false internal structures that prevent great design work from happening in the first place. It’s all too common to see an organization where the Web team is a completely distinct unit from the mobile team.

Here’s the problem: The end user doesn’t care how your company is structured. Customers view brands as a unified entity, and they expect that brand’s value to be delivered across all channels with an equal degree of integrity. The good news is that the digital landscape is forcing all of us to re-think how we work. The bad news is that we’re trying to crawl out of a work style that was better designed for Ford’s assembly line than for digital ecosystem consistency.

Personally, I’m excited. While there’s certainly a ton of disruption (and serious failure) happening across many industries that long thought they were invincible, there are some incredibly bright spots across the businesses that are reconsidering a new way of working so that design’s true values can be brought forward. In a world full of sameness, design can act as a key differentiator. Organizations that never had a design department are now hiring designers at a rapid clip. That said, there’s a ton of work to be done. Adding designers to your staff won’t make much of a difference if the organization can’t understand its customer needs or create a brand-consistent digital ecosystem that serves those needs.

We’re trying to crawl out of a work style designed for assembly lines.

So, how do we move forward? At a fundamental level, we need to resist the way we’ve been taught work happens: Departmental and functional silos are working models of a past era. Obviously, some of the issues addressed here occur at a very deep organizational level. While outside consultants have been brought into large organizations for years to diagnose certain organizational challenges, I believe that designers are in a prime position to observe, interpret, and model back a different way of working.

If we can agree that consumers see a brand as having one “voice,” I’d argue that the internal organization’s infrastructure should be set up to reflect that singular voice: No more Web team, separate from the mobile team, separate from the development team. The unifying principles that guide these teams should center around what customers actually need, not what new technologies we want to throw at them. These needs exist regardless of platform, and they act as a sounding board in conjunction with the core business objectives.

Telling designers to “create organizational change” is like saying “we put our customers first.” Both things are easier said than done. What I’m advocating is simply changing the conversation at a grassroots level by modeling different behaviors.

Your challenge? Re-think the way you’ve been working. Break your old habits. For example, rather than generating a 50-slide PowerPoint to sell your new digital concept, facilitate a conversation with your team in a workshop. Rather than presenting a fully baked concept, sketch something out for early feedback. Present a prototype for user feedback instead of launching a fully functional application. Get out of the design vacuum, bring other perspectives to the table, and ideally, get others to reconsider how they’ve been working to date.

Generating space for design is challenging amidst the general pace of business, but with the right mindset, dedicated team members, proper cross-functional collaboration, and a clear focus on the voice of the customer, digital products and services can be conceived with a fresh perspective.

[Images: echo3005 and ChipPix via Shutterstock]