The Imminent Abundance of Screens


I have 3 iPhones. Two of them are dead, one is my working phone. I have the first generation iPad and can’t wait to get the 3rd generation iPad when it comes out. In our household alone, we have 3 monitors and 4 laptops. Include my wife’s iPhone and we have 12 screens.

The age of surplus pixels

We are entering an age of surplus pixels – more and more screens will be in our homes, doing nothing, just being dark and disconnected. Some of them will be used to show family pictures, not much more.

What are we going to do about the abundance of screens?

Most screens are designed to grab all the available attention. That would be a huge mistake. Nobody can deal with 12 screens, all screaming for attention. We can focus on 2 screens, maybe 3 but that’s about it.

The remaining screens have to be respectful of the primary screens and deliver something fast, valuable or useful when we have a spare second.

Just like the work of Dentsu/Berg shown below.

Media surfaces: Incidental Media from Dentsu London on Vimeo.

The future of secondary screens has an immense influence on the future of advertising.

In case you’re not familiar with Robert Heath’s Low Attention Processing Model (I think everybody in the advertising industry should), it’s easy to connect the dots of his model to the surplus of pixels with this summary:

1. Because brands match each other’s performance so swiftly, and consumers exist in a time-poor environment, considered choice tends to give way to intuitive choice, in which emotions are more influential.

2. This situation inhibits the consumer’s desire to seek out information about brands, and minimizes the need for them to pay attention to advertising. Brand information can however be ‘acquired’ at low and even zero level attention levels, using two distinct mental processes. The first process is passive learning, which is a low-attention cognitive process. Passive learning has been show to be poor at changing opinions and attitudes but is able to record and link together brand names and other elements in an ad.

3. The second process is implicit learning, which is a fully automatic non-cognitive process that has been shown to be independent of attention. Implicit learning, as is discussed below, cannot analyze or re-interpret anything, all it is able to do is to store what is perceived, along with any simple conceptual meaning that we attach to these perceptions.

4. Because of this limitation, implicit learning does not establish strong rational brand benefits in the consumer’s mind. Instead it builds and reinforces associations over time and these associations become linked to the brand by passive learning These association are extraordinarily enduring and can trigger emotional markers, which in turn influence intuitive decision-making.

Low Attention Processing builds patterns


Since branding is about creating patterns, not creating messages, abundant screens should be used for branding and the primary screens are focused on direct response.

It’s going to be a tough task for marketers to use the surplus of pixels appropriately. We tend to be big, bombastic, look-at-me and loud. Instead, we need to be quiet and small.

  • It could be a screen displaying my commute through colors. When it’s red, I’ll stay in the office. When it turns green, I’m coming home.
  • A screen displaying the current state of the global economy, based on various financial feeds.
  • I would love to see on a screen what music all my friends are currently listening to.

It has to be slow. It has to be small. More importantly, it has to be valuable.

I suspect, it will be more artful than the current advertising. Secondary screens as an accessory, a social object.

A fascinating future awaits us.

About Uwe Hook

Uwe Hook (@uwehook) is the CEO and Co-Founder of BatesHook, Inc. ( and a veteran of the advertising and marketing industry with the goal of building connections between people and brands. Uwe can be reached at



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