Evolving video to deliver the knockout blow

“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”, as Mike Tyson famously put it. At the beginning of the year no one expected to be sharing the ring with a global pandemic, so from a marketeer’s perspective, Covid dealt an unexpected blow that left many companies dazed. ‘Where are my customers?’ ‘Should I be spending on marketing?’ ‘What’s the right message to put out there?’ These brands aren’t out for the count yet, but unless they adapt their strategy and tactics, it could be lights out.

There are countless articles and case studies that argue now (in a recession) is the time companies should be investing in brand activity in order to reap the successes further down the line, but what does brand building actually look like in a post-Covid world?

I say post-Covid because changes to the media landscape have been accelerated by the pandemic. Video consumption has soared, with 12m people signing up to a subscription service over the course of lockdown and 38% of us watching more online video than we usually would, according to GlobalWebIndex. Broadcast viewing has also seen impressive figures due to an increased demand in trusted news programmes.

The type of content and the way we engage with it is also evolving rapidly. Take TikTok, which generated the most downloads in a quarter ever at the start of the year, with a staggering 315m installs. Meanwhile, YouTube has enjoyed a 15% increase in traffic compared to last year, and Instagram launched Reels and saw live videos grow in popularity.

Brits are basically consuming more video content than ever before and from a wider variety of sources, and the data heavily suggests these habits are here to stay. So, with video now a key component in brand building, we take a look at how marketers should navigate this rapidly evolving landscape and some considerations for campaign planning.

Broadcast reigns supreme, but creative should be conceived with digital in mind

Though online video consumption is rising, it’s still yet to match the viewership of broadcast TV, which remains the most effective medium for producing the reach, fame and emotional associations needed to brand build. That said, digital should complement any TV strategy, but it’s not enough to simply re-purpose the TV creative; the brand idea needs to have digital in mind. WARC lists 5 key strengths of digital that brands should play to:

  • Immediacy: how can your brand be the ‘just-in-time’ solution to any problem, question or need? (Even if that need is entertainment or distraction)
  • Intimate: how can your brand speak to consumers directly, recognising and reflecting what you know about them? (Without being creepy!)
  • Interactive: how can your brand invite participation, response, sharing or playing? (But avoiding meaningless engagement)
  • Immersive: how can you create a brand experience that consumers want to immerse themselves in?
  • Innovative: how can your brand do something inspiring, unexpected or imaginative using innovation?

Be conscious of environment and context

Video content (and subsequently ads) are experienced differently across platforms. A 30s TV ad is not the same as a 30s YouTube ad and 1,000 views on Facebook is not the same as 1,000 views across outstream. Depending on where it appears and the need state of the user, video can be skipped, avoided, consumed passively, muted or fully engaged.

That means when channel planning you need to be honest about what it is you’re trying to achieve and whether a format has the capabilities to deliver those goals. Are you looking for awareness? Trying to build saliency? Create an emotional connection?

Different formats play to different strengths so it’s vital to get it right. At HOME, we’ve created a planning process called The 4 R’s which provides a framework for scoring potential media channels against a desired outcome.

Mobile consumption patterns from Facebook show that 70% of time spent on the app is with short-form, silent, snackable, high frequency content, with 30% going to longer, richer, more complex content. With that in mind, considerations have to be made in order to create effective ads (from WARC):

  • Integrate the brand into the narrative early, but in a meaningful way
  • Land the main message sooner rather than later
  • Make it as long as you need to, and as short as you can get away with (there’s no strong relationship between view-through rate and brand recall)
  • Tell feed-friendly stories, which capture engagement initially but reward continued engagements with heartbeats of story
  • Respect the context you will be consumed in – public spaces, small screens, 1×1 or vertical (and critically, review your work in a similar context to assess whether it works!)

Online video is increasingly shifting to mobile, but here brand messaging is largely unwelcome

As smartphone experiences have improved, mobile is increasingly the device of choice for online video consumption, with on-demand, anytime, anywhere viewing now the norm; particularly amongst the highly sought-after younger demographic. However, as advertisers we must accept that we are crashing a party that no one invited us to. With users able to scroll past and flick us away in a fraction of a second, having a mobile strategy is key.

Research by The Attention Council used webcam and mobile footage to assess user’s attention levels and found that most viewing garners low attention levels. Online video is proven to help with incremental reach, but this is moot if ads are failing to get noticed. For mobile audiences, short-form ads such as YouTube Bumper ads are more effective at gaining attention and generating engagement. Content partnerships and influencer campaigns have surged in popularity recently because they too can help achieve the initial cut-through that brands need. TikTok has also rather astutely given a clear instruction to brands wanting to maximise the effectiveness of this rising channel: “Don’t make ads, make TikToks”.

It’s a challenging but exciting time to work in marketing. Over the next 12 months I think we’ll see lots of case studies from brands who are fortunate enough to have the spending power to test new methods of reaching their audience in response to the pandemic. At HOME, we understand the importance of reach, context, environment and attention, and The 4 R’s planning process keeps us grounded and focused to ensure we’re selecting the most effective channel mix for our client’s objectives. With regards to video channel selection, some good questions to keep in mind are what message do I need to convey, how much of the audience’s time do I need and how would I like them to respond? When planned correctly, the tools are there to deliver that knockout blow.

Written by:

Pete Grimes Senior Digital Media Manager


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