Since the dawn of the TV era, the way we tell brand stories through video has improved considerably. The content and quality has improved, and the best brands and agencies have become masters at creating emotional, surprising narratives, often using a similar sped up version of Joseph Campbell’s famous ‘Hero’s Journey’ structure that most great movies are based on.
Traditionally, we’ve told stories built for a passive environment, meaning people have to watch the ad all the way through. In television advertising, the big reveal almost always happens towards the end, after a big lead in and before some brand message. Given a 15-30-45 second ad slot, that was the best way to gather as much attention as possible.
But there’s a problem.
We’ve become so accustomed to the TV way of telling stories through video, we’ve tried to shoehorn it into social too. How many times have you seen a TV advert placed in skippable pre-roll, or directly uploaded to Facebook?
To do this is to proactively harm the effectiveness of your video campaign. Video ad units tend to be set in the mobile newsfeed or another opt-in environment, whereby the user must choose to not skip, or to not flip past the video in their feed. Most of the time, sound is off too, creating another challenge to the way we’ve always done things.
Thus, the way we structure our video content has to fundamentally change to fit the reality of platform viewing.
To create truly integrated campaigns, we can’t keep trying to force the square peg of a TV ad into the round hole of a social feed, pre-roll or story.
‘3 second audition’
BBDO NY has done some brilliant work in this space, and the below graph describes the difference between the passive and active story arc.
One of the biggest challenges in an autoplay, soundless newsfeed that’s filled with other interesting things is to ‘win the 3 second audition‘. As BBDO references above, if people aren’t necessarily going to watch your full video then what you put in those first few seconds is more crucial than ever.
Unlike in ‘passive’ environments like forced 30 second pre-roll or TV, our creative needs to present a the idea and grab an audience in the opening few seconds. That’s a big shift in thinking and requires a change in the way we shoot and particularly edit branded content.
At a recent IAB Connect event, Facebook’s Olly Sewell discussed the importance of optimising and chopping video content for the mobile feed outlining the increase in recall and effectiveness if that’s the case.
This is something Facebook has been preaching for a while, and it’s something we must be aware of no matter what social or digital video we’re planning.
Here’s an example from social news brand ‘The Dodo’. Sure, it’s not a consumer brand per se, but it’s a perfect showcase of understanding the way people consume video in the feed and optimising for that.
If this was a TV or YouTube video, it would start at the start and leave the big reveal until three quarters in. But because it’s Facebook video, if the reveal is too hidden, the user is gone by the time the climax comes. So through a simple editing technique, The Dodo starts the video in the middle, and then literally re-winds to give the full story.
Here’s another example from Wrigley’s gum. The first clip below is a TV spot told in the traditional way.
The second is a shorter social optimised video clip that flips the story arc around to optimise for the way we consume video in feed.
Adapting for the platform significantly increases creative effectiveness, so be mindful of platform/content fit and don’t just lazily adhere to the old ways of telling stories in the passive TV environment. At the moment that’s the biggest mistake brands are making with social video.