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Thinking Differently About Video Advertising

Written by Kathryn | 09-Dec-2016 11:52:37

I attended the IAB Thinking Differently video conference on the Southbank last month, in the aptly chosen British Film Institute. The location and the excellent speakers certainly made up for the dreary November weather – here are my 5 key takeaways from the day!

1. Be clever

As you would expect, there was a lot of talk around the importance of creative production, from recommendations on how to make the most of the topical traits of social video through to the idea that digital video should not just be a re-purposed version of a TV ad.

Nicholas Hayes, Director of Advertising and Vincenzo Bruno, Brand Manager EMEA, both from Hotels.com, took us through the satirical videos they deployed on Facebook and YouTube:


They made fun of Facebook silent autoplay in one of their videos (using their Captain Obvious mascot) where not only did they use sarcastic subtitles they also used sign language!


They ran YouTube ads in various countries and wanted to try something different in the UK. In 2016 they created an ad using Captain Obvious where users could click ‘Skip Ad’ but actually that would make all the actors skip!

Ian Crocombe, Head of Creative Shop at Facebook, reiterated the thoughts from Hotels.com, telling us to “play with the rules.” He did share some top tips which I will now share with you, but he also reminded us that once everyone starts doing it we’ll all need to think of something else!

Bookending – using a carousel style format, begin with a video, then include 3 stills, and finish with a video.

Heartbeat narrative – reward perpetual attention by interspersing with particular moments or something that gets funnier as the ad progresses.

Zigs & Zags – hook the user with visuals or a story, then show them a product, then hook them in again, then show them another product and so on.

Start with the end in mind – this has been used a number of times recently, and Ian showed us an ad for washing liquid which is played backwards, so it shows a red wine stain coming off a dress rather than the drink being spilt on it.

2. Design for digital platforms

Design for sound off

Emilie Löfdahl, Business Area Manager and Joy Dean, Partnerships Director UK and Western Europe, both from Widespace, told us thatonly 1% of people click for sound, and Crocombe told us to design for sound off.

Design for mobile

Crocombe also talked about the need to “frame your visual story” – it cannot be 16 x 9 for mobile so if you’re modifying a TV ad try to crop it, and pull out the most interesting frames. Lucy McHenry, Head of Agency Sales from Twitter, claimed that 93% of Twitter video views are on mobile and emphasised the need for vertical video.

Design for digital

The view from Nicholas Hayes and Vincenzo Bruno was that “digital has a limited budget when it comes to creative,” and that there are certainly cost efficiencies to be made in filming digital video on the same day as a TV ad. They said that training was vital for their high-value production ads, and they took a collaborative approach, with everyone involved working on it from start to finish, including the media buying agency and the media partners.

Helen Rothwell, Marketing and Communications Manager at Barclays, talked to us about a similar approach they took for a video they set live by 9pm on the day of the Budget – they achieved this by getting all the right people in the room at the same time, including Copywriters, Marketing Managers, Actors and Company Directors who could sign off the final piece.

Jonathan Milne, Chief Revenue Officer at Celtra, felt that in recent times the focus has been on the media buy and the message or creative has sometimes been left behind. Like Hotels.com and Facebook, Milne also talked about when TV ads are re-purposed for digital, and the issues that arise:

They generally include audio.

They can work well in the pre-roll context but not on mobile, because most people don't rotate their phones for ads. Mobile video ads need to be short form and vertical to be relevant.

3. The Rise of Social Video

Toccara Baker, Director of Special Operations (loving the job title) from Tube Mogul, wowed the audience with soundbites including the fact that Facebook now has more unique viewers than Yahoo, ABC and CBS, and she shared similar stats relating to Twitter and Snapchat, describing social platforms as “new age publishers.”

Crocombe described life today as a “video first world” and predicted that one day (probably in the not too distant future), we will be broadcasting our status update live into our smartphone’s camera and publishing to our friends on Facebook. I regularly witness my 5 and 8 year old children filming themselves “live to their audience” on YouTube, just like the Vloggers they follow, so I agree this won’t be far away!

There is no doubt that social media is now an important channel to include on pretty much any media plan, confirmed by the fact that social media will represent 16% of all digital ad spend globally in 2017. Social Media advertising sits within the Media Planning and Buying team at equimedia, and we use our data-led planning framework to evaluate and plan social media ad campaigns in the same way we would plan a display campaign: right ad, right place, right time, right cost. No one social platform fits all and audience analysis should always be the starting point.

4. Short or Long Form?

Atossa Vaziri, Head of Buy-Side Video at DoubleClick EMEA, took us through an interesting analogy for different types of video that are appropriate for different environments and at different times: Meal, Snack, Bite.

Meal: long form, slow build to reveal. Some videos are effective even though they are only 5 minutes long; the important thing is that you’re telling the right story in front of the right type of content.

Snack: small, concise, and to the right audience. The video needs to be specific to what the audience are interested in. You might produce long form content and then lots of ‘snacks’ for different people with different interests, ensuring you are appealing to all of your audiences.

Bite: familiar, relevant, easy and quick. 6 second YouTube bumper ads can work well here, an example being around a film release.

5. Where Else Is Growth Coming From?

Mike Melling, Director of Video at AOL Europe, took to the stage amid loud applause – he was mainly there to promote some video research AOL have recently conducted, but he did make a couple of interesting points:

1. He reminded us that Netflix launched their first original piece of content only three years ago (House of Cards), and look at them now!

2. AOL’s view is that branded content is the future, and Mike showed us a VR experience AOL created with Cadbury’s, which he described as “trading on emotion”:

Francesca Panetta, Multimedia Special Projects Editor at The Guardian, delivered an inspiring talk about virtual reality and how it will shape the future. She showed us a powerful VR experience piece which The Guardian released in April which was based on solitary confinement – watch the trailer here, and a really insightful piece which was created by urban explorers in the Victorian tunnels underground in London

McHenry from Twitter also talked about their most recent development, the live video experience, where video meets live conversation. For example you can watch a football game with the Twitter commentary taking place in real time underneath. At the moment this is mainly being utilised for sports, politics and entertainment e.g. red carpet events, but McHenry predicted it will grow exponentially in 2017, and we are expecting to see the same from Facebook Live.

As per Ian Crocombe’s proclamation, we are living in a video first world. We are excited to watch this world continue to evolve and to make the most of the opportunities that become available for our clients!

If you would like to discuss your video strategy please contact us on 01793 715 440