“…one screen to rule them all and in the market bind them.” Well OK Tolkien said ring and not screen and he was talking about evil and we’re talking about video and marketing. There’s a difference right?

Let’s face it, many of us are multi-screen users – TV, computer, mobile. Well, Microsoft just released a report this week detailing how multi-screen strategies can work toward higher brand awareness and increase conversation rates. Microsoft Advertising and Wunderman teamed up on the Multi-Screen Consumer White Paper to tell us all about how that can be done. I got my hands on it and now it’s not so white, but I can give you the details.

The research study covered aged 18-64 users who use TV, computers, smartphones and video game consoles to consume media. They spoke with 1,200 consumers in spring 2010.

They found that while convergence is moving forward, each screen plays a specific role in the media consumption and entertainment experience but still can work together to create a cohesive experience. The consumers have certain expectations about a consistent experience across the screens and in order to maintain engagement with them, these expectations will need to be met.

A Multi-Screen Consumer is defined as an adult between the ages of 18 and 64 who has and uses a TV, computer, and smartphone, and who also accesses the Internet at least 2–3 times each week using both their computer and smartphone. An estimated 33 million Americans with internet access are considered Multi-Screen Consumers.

We, the multi-screen generation spend on average 54 hours a week doing something on a media device. We have a higher discretionary income, are better educated and most likely employed more often than the general 18-64-year-old demographic. Of course that makes sense, we need income to buy our media devices and we need the know-how to get them all up and running and not, like my mother, have the 12:00 flashing on the VCR for months (no, I don’t currently know anyone with a VCR).

What does that all mean? It means you are targeting a gainfully employed, more affluent and smarter group of people when you aim for them. That could easily translate into better sales, but only if the way you target them is compelling and smart. It means, we, the 3-screeners, know what you’re trying to do with your advertisements and are not just aware, but wary. Clever bastards, aren’t we?

Convergence is happening, but only when there’s a reason for it. When 3-screeners gain benefit from it, they will do it. Check out this nifty perceptual Map I lifted from the white paper:

Notice how close Computer and Smartphone are? That is because the functionality is closer together. They share a variety of things. While the further away the less in common they have. Activities (the black squares) are closest to the screen where they are used the most.  Note the location of Watched a user-generated video just about smack in between those two. Video still seems more dominant on the computer and the TV when compared to gaming consoles, but that’s bound to change I’m sure. It still also looks like the majority of the 3-screeners still watch TV on a TV and not as much on the computer. Tv and movies on demand are slowly shifting toward gaming consoles but not all that quickly and they’re not making any sort of move toward computers or mobiles according to the report.

However, video does truly span three screens as it shows up on smartphones, computers and TVs. The ‘gaming console screen’ is really sort of an artificial screen as it’s generally a TV or computer display or perhaps a pseudo-screen.  Although, 23% of online gamers use it to watch some form of video, 39% use it to communicate with others.

Another interesting chart was the 3-screeners by age:

You can see clearly that as age goes up, usage of the three screens for video goes down, from 74-75% to 71% and from 3.6 hours to 2.2. Much of that time was user-generated video (YouTube anyone?) with 2.6 hours out of 3.6 for the 18-24 demo. Interestingly, the middle demo spends the most time playing games online and watches less non-user-generated video (only 0.5 hours each week versus one hour for the 18-24 demo).

Gamers rule! The study found that online gamers have the most connected experiences across the screens and spend more time per week, 57 hours, doing just that (remember the average was 54 hours).

From a marketing standpoint you might them of them as the place to target with interactive, social campaigns. That is effectively what it is that they are doing with their time online. They are interacting with the content and they are being social about it (because the reason to be online as a gamer is to play and communicate with others).

From this research it’s clear to see that we can expect some cross or transmedia campaigns that will stretch across the screens to tell a story, raise brand awareness or attempt to increase conversions and purchasing. Computers are still leading the way as the research tool to learn about brands and services (88%) but the smartphone is rapidly making inroads (36%) and has already surpassed TV (32%) while gaming consoles are still just touching the tip of the iceberg (11%). That’s not to say you shouldn’t include them in your campaigns, just be aware that they are less likely to be as effective presently.

Before I wrap this up and leave you for the time being, I’ll pull in one more interesting chart (the report is about 15 pages long so there’s more than enough info and reason for you to get and read it yourself). Here’s the chart for Reactions to multi-screen experience:

For those that want to read the full report head to the Multi-Screen Consumer White Paper from Microsoft Advertising and Wunderman. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to turn on my TV, computer, game console and smartphone and converge with them.