(Note: The following post contains no spoilers.) 

The Breaking Bad series finale was the biggest cultural moment in recent history. It was a long-anticipated culmination of arguably the best dramatic storytelling ever on basic cable.

And while I was watching it, I was also on my phone.

I was browsing, texting and tweeting. I even took a video of my cat.  

Although this was maybe the most exciting moment on television this year, it couldn't win my full attention.

Above: One of the screens I was looking at while Above: One of the screens I was looking at while "watching" the Breaking Bad finale.

It turns out I'm not alone in being distracted by my phone.

In the US, 76% of users access the internet on a smartphone while doing something on another device at least once per day. This is an example of parallel media usage: when a user is on more than one device simultaneously.

As marketers, we need to develop and hone the capability to tell our stories to consumers who are hopping from one device to the next.

That means both the technology piece (e.g. does my rich media ad work correctly on mobile) and the attention-getting piece (e.g. is this message/content enough to compete for consumer attention) need to be considered.

Source: The New Multi-Screen World (Google)

Looking at how devices are being used can shed some light onto how marketing messages might compete with distractions like cat videos. 

Google's study The New Multi-Screen World has a lot of great insights. I highly suggest you read it if you haven't already. In particular, the study found that:

  • Smartphones are the most common companion device for simultaneous usage
  • Smartphones are the most common starting point for online activities

There are a few things marketers can infer from these ideas when creating multi-screen advertising.

Ads as Companions

For your next campaign, ask yourself, "Is this ad a good companion to other activities people are taking on the web? "

Ads that provide value within their boundaries — which is to say, ads which don't require a clickthrough to get to the content — are a good example of this. Instead of interrupting the user's experience by taking them off the site or out of the app, interactive ads can provide that companion experience to what they're already focusing the majority of their attention on.

Ads as Starting Points 

You might be looking at this and saying, "Aha, this is what I do. My mobile banners say quite obviously 'click here' — the perfect starting point."

I'm sorry, but you're going to have to do better than that.

Does your call to action truly inspire users to take an impulsive journey? Does it provide sufficient reason for them to abandon what they are up to in favor or something more fulfilling?

Typical CTAs are sometimes not all that inspiring, especially on mobile.

One good starting point CTA is to prompt users to take specific social actions, such as share a tweet with a particular #hashtag. You'll never guess my example of a good execution of this.

During the afore-mentioned show, I was actually prompted to social media when the hashtag #GoodbyeBreakingBad showed up at the bottom of the screen. It was a very clever move.

Instead of competing with the second screen, Breaking Bad capitalized on it, focusing their fans to join together in celebration and providing a common hashtag to get the ball rolling.

#GoodbyeBreakingBad paid off. The final episode of the show generated 1.24 million tweets from 601,370 unique users during the live broadcasts on the east and west coasts. 

So while I was on my second screen while watching the show's finale, I was actually participating in earned media for AMC and Breaking Bad.

Well, that and also making a cat video.