Creative Best Practices Media Planning & Buying Opinions

David Byrne Talks Context Driven Media Design

Posted by Adam Broitman on February 7th, 2012 at 7:34 am

Are you sure you have considered context?

How often do you think about the context in which your media/advertising is received? If you are a media or strategic planner, probably a lot, but possibly not enough. I recently came across a TED talk by David Byrne. Not only did the talk reaffirm my estimation that David Byrne is a sacred alien, it got me to thinking about the increasingly challenging role that context plays in marketing and advertising in a post-PC world. I strongly suggest you take the next fifteen minutes and watch the video below. Then come back to this conversation with me and consider the following elements. I have a great many opinions on this topic, but I am really looking to spark feedback from a variety of practitioners.

YouTube Preview Image

Please join the conversation by giving some feedback on the following:

  • You know that people use mobile devices "on the go" so you plan apps/mobile web for mobility. Have you ever considered a layout of the same app/site, on the same device, for different contexts (and I am not simply referring to leveraging landscape mode--I am talking real UI variations)?
    • For most of you, the answer is most likely "no" as this is not a common practice. Can you think of an instance when this might makes sense?
    • We know that people are using their smartphones in the bathroom. Perhaps a Lavatory Landscape Mode or a Toilet Time Mode. Of course, I am just joking...well...
  • Tablets. No one really knows what the most common uses are yet (yeah yeah--I know YOU know), although some studies are beginning to tell us people are using them in bed at breakfast and in the boardroom--very different contexts. As a brand or publisher providing information and/or experience, do you deem it appropriate to group those contexts together (please don't try and combine those three contexts, trust me!)?
    • Tablet users are proving to be a news hungry, lucrative audience. Just because you sell soap, does that mean you cannot incorporate relevant content that can feed this context (I am not promoting it, I am simply posing the question)?

These are merely thought starters. Now, go search for contextual clues relative to what you are working on. Bring them back and share your thoughts with you industry colleagues. I am excited to hear your thoughts.

2 Responses to “David Byrne Talks Context Driven Media Design”

  1. Chris Kenton says:

    Interesting line of thought, Adam. I notice the difference of context most clearly with my iPad. I took my iPad on a trip to India, with an external keyboard, as an alternative to carrying a laptop. What I noticed were the significant contextual differences that would lead me to pull out the keyboard. Sitting on the plane, no keyboard, watching videos and reading Wired. Walking around Mumbai, no keyboard, pulling up Let's Go maps and travel guides. Sitting in the hotel room, keyboard ready, catching up on email and writing notes. They keyboard is a pretty good indicator of task-orientation and context, and could be used to trigger different UI environments (I suppose it already does with the appearance or non-appearance of a software keyboard, but it could go much further.)

    With respect to advertising, however, I think you're a few years ahead of the practical problems with advertising. When I search on Google for a new jacket, for the next &$#*@ 6 weeks, I get the same damn add for the same damn jacket in banner ads plastered over a third of the sites I visit. I already bought the jacket I wanted 5 weeks ago, stop showing me the same stupid ad, assuming you're going to influence a purchase decision that's dead and cold. Similarly, just because I went on line and did a one-off Google search on the new Lexus does not mean that I'm ~actually~ in the market for a new Lexus, so why are you wasting my time and attention by plastering the same damn ad everywhere I go for the next 6 weeks?

    Last rant, video ads. @##$@!!! Half the video sites that have implemented video ads have such ridiculously stupid business rules for displaying them, it actually drives me away from the content. Even the big boys. Do you really have such low inventory that you have to show me the same damn 30-second Clearasil ad, obviously targeted at the wrong demographic, in front of EVERY SINGLE clip I watch, regardless of length? A 30-second ad for a 1:30 viral video that I only got halfway through because it was stupid, and now you're going to show me the same 30-second ad for the next video link I click on? Uh, yeah. Goodbye.

    So, yeah, I love the idea of thinking about contextually driven UI modulations that could inform new ways to target ads. But prove to me any of these advertisers can even walk before they run.

  2. Adam Broitman says:


    Really great points! I agree that keyboard is a great contextual clue, though as we adapt to "soft keys" and voice control, this will get even more complicated.

    I also agree that we are not there yet. Not even close. For better or worse, my career has largely been built on things that are just around the corner. I do my best to analyze what is about to happen. I am not always on point, but with this, I think those of us that are considering these things now will be reaping the benefits shortly.

    Don't get me started on video advertising. CNET is SO bad with that. I think I will hold my tongue on that point ;)


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