27/03/2015 08:08 GMT | Updated 26/05/2015 06:59 BST

Understanding and Targeting the 'Always On' Consumer

We live in a world where the consumer is 'always on'. The proliferation of hand-held devices and increasing availability of 4G have super-charged the mobile market. We now have a constant prime time environment where the consumer chooses when and where to digest content.

The speed at with this market is going is remarkable. eMarketer predicts UK mobile ad spend will grow by 96% this year. It's on the brink of overtaking the multi-billion pound magazine and newspaper market, as well as wooing more ad dollars from the TV bucket.

With this exponential growth, advertisers are unlocking reams of new data. As such, we know more about the consumer than ever before and can tailor their experiences.

We know what they're watching, where they are, what they're doing and what they may well do next.

At a panel at Advertising Week Europe (#AWEurope), I discussed what cross-screen actually is and how we (the ad community) can take full advantage of it to target consumers before Facebook and telcos eat up the market.

Matching the screen with the message

Most brands have realised that mobile is vital for reaching their audience. But with consumers flitting between devices, advertisers need to track individuals cross device to serve a consistent, relevant, seamless experience.

Step one is to deliver content that fits the purpose of each screen. TV is great for brand awareness, while laptops and tablets will likely see consumers research or view longer form content, and a smartphone (the device we feel lost without) presents a call to action.

An individual's personal information doesn't change from device to device, making this data the very glue that provides a single view of the consumer, however each device unlocks additional data. Mars may want to use TV to champion its product to millennial males but use smartphones to determine where and when individual customers do their weekly shop.

Not every brand will adopt campaigns that leverage all of these screens and that's okay. What's crucial to secure long fruitful customer relationships is understanding the consumer (and their preferences) and start up a dialogue.

Of course, the more devices you reach an audience on, the more bites of the cherry you'll have to obtain invaluable data that paints a clearer picture of the consumer.

Relevancy and transparency are key

While following consumers cross screen throws up a lot of data, brands that traditionally relied upon desktop cookie tracking to target and reach their audiences are now battling with the fragmentation of audience data across platforms.

The solution is for media owners like Sky, who have frequent access to mass audiences across multiple devices, to join the dots of data touch points. Help brands navigate the consumer journey between devices and enable them to deliver relevant campaigns at scale.

What's more, transparency is fundamental with data. Brands and media companies need to be clear with what they are asking for and what it will be used for. After all, trust in a brand will encourage consumers to give data in the future.

Not all media entities have the same bank of data or brand loyalty that Facebook currently sits on, or indeed as telcos like Vodafone are building up, now owning distribution channels and increasingly TV / on demand content.

The bottom line for brands and media players is to understand what makes consumers tick and start up a dialogue with them, whenever and wherever they are. Ultimately the richer understanding that brands have of consumers, the more relevant campaigns can be made and greater ROI achieved.

Donald Hamilton is Senior Vice President at RhythmOne and is responsible for the company's growth and expansion strategy across the UK and Europe. Donald is highly experienced in online branding, digital marketing and publishing and is passionate about developing businesses across Europe. Prior to his current role, Donald was partner of Precedio Consulting and Director of Zodiak Advertising.