Brands need to master the art of maintaining attention for more than five seconds by telling better brand stories says Nigel Hollis, Global Chief Analyst, Kantar Millward Brown.
Video is one of the most powerful tools in the marketer’s toolbox. Compelling impressions crafted using sight and sound can help shape people’s perceptions and deepen their emotional bond with a brand for years to come.
At least that’s how it works on TV. The digital environment challenges marketers to hold people’s attention for more than a few seconds. New research confirms that success rests far more with creativity and understanding the audience’s mindset than technology.
Brands might be tempted to try and force attention by buying unskippable ad formats, however, the recent AdReaction: Gen X, Y, Z study found that on a global basis the majority of people had a negative attitude toward auto-play and unskippable ads.
Marketers need to respect their audience’s desire for control if this antipathy is not to wash over onto the advertised brand. Moreover, when marketers do try to enforce attention, viewers of digital video can simply turn their attention elsewhere until their hostility to advertising grows to the point where they load an ad blocker.
Of course, the problem is that if you do offer people more control they will take advantage of it. We are still a long way from delivering the right ad to the right person at the right time. Databases and behavioral proxies give little indication of a person’s mindset at a specific point in time, even if the basic targeting is accurate. Busy communicating with friends, searching for information or settling in to surf content, the user may simply not have the inclination to watch a branded video.
Today receptivity not reach is the biggest barrier to digital effectiveness. In 2017, attention needs to be earned not enforced.
The only real way to beat the skip is through creativity. Brands must either work within the five-second window or keep as many people watching as possible. Either strategy can be effective but both require brands working with people’s brains not against them. Deliver too much information too fast and people’s conscious minds will choke. Fail to create anticipation that a video will deliver something of value and people will skip. As always, real insight into the audience’s interests and motivations is key to delivering an ad that makes a lasting impression.
As part of the research for Make a Lasting Impression, Kantar Millward Brown tested reactions to the Old Spice’s 5 second ad, ‘Sweat.’ The findings demonstrate that it can be really difficult to make a compelling impression in a few seconds.
While image of the deodorant stick shoved into an armpit no doubt caught people’s attention the reaction was far from positive. Automated facial coding suggests little engagement and people were more likely than normal to describe the ad as irritating, unpleasant and disturbing.
By contrast, Geico’s ad, ‘Unskippable’, did manage to make an impression. When tested on Facebook people found the ad highly enjoyable, very distinctive and focused on the brand. Much of the enjoyment no doubt stems from the dog eating the family’s food while they remain frozen.
Interestingly, the ad was less positively received as a TV commercial, because the explicit reference to skipping made less sense on TV and undermined the video’s humor.
The success of Geico’s ‘Unskippable’ points to the real recipe for success when it comes to digital video. The trick is not to beat the skip but work with it. Marketers must accept that not everyone will be willing to watch their video. We all have to work harder to engage people in the first five seconds and keep their attention for as long as possible.
This means marketers need to understand the audience’s specific needs and interests. For instance, Pampers ‘Pooface’ breaks many of the ‘rules’ for an online video – brand early, deliver the impression quickly – but the combination of babies faces and music holds attention well for the right audience.
The Geico ad held attention far better among older viewers than younger, the latter no doubt seeing little of interest in a retro family dinner scene or insurance.
By contrast, a video for Skittles featuring Steven Tyler hooks younger people’s attention from the start when he utters the phrase, ‘I have minds to twist and values to warp.’ ‘The Portrait’ held attention better than average with 46% of people watching the ad till the end compared to an expected 32%.
Videos that tell a story and evoke emotions are far more likely to be watched beyond the skip than those that resort to the hard sell. These are the videos that people watch, seek out and share. John Lewis’s ad, ‘Buster the Boxer’ is a good example. It’s a distinctive, enjoyable, involving and well branded story that was watched 25 million times on YouTube in the run up to Christmas 2016.
Marketers who want to make the most of their digital video must learn to work with the skip and craft videos which engage people’s attention early, create anticipation and hold their attention long enough to deliver a lasting impression.