The world of video is changing. Not just what we watch, but how. Just as people turned from radio to television, they have now shifted to mobile in what is essentially a behavioural revolution. But that’s not news. The ‘year of mobile’ has been and gone. And it’s shaping how businesses grow now, and in the decades to come.
Smartphones, and platforms like Facebook and Instagram, have given businesses the ability to engage with consumers like never before. Some 1.6 billion people are connected to a business on the platform. Any advertiser can run a campaign on Facebook for just a few pounds, dollars or euros, opening doors for businesses that would previously have been locked out of the advertising ecosystem.
But advertisers are yet to truly seize this massive opportunity, according to Ian Edwards, a planning director at Facebook. Yes, advertisers are running ads that appear via social media on phones. But they’re still treating mobile as a creative afterthought. And by doing so, they’re missing out.
“The biggest competitive advantage an advertiser has is its creatives,” he says. “When advertisers actually build creative for mobile, rather than re-using content originally made for TV, we see the direct impact. I have seen companies double return on investment just by understanding how to create video for a mobile world.”
The issue is that video is generally treated the same, whether it’s intended for TV or for digital platforms. “Video creatives for TV and mobile might look the same in a PowerPoint deck when the client is signing them off, but at the endpoint the behavior is so vastly different on mobile compared to other channels,” says Edwards.
We’ve all seen the stats about people scrolling the length of Big Ben every day, so how can advertisers stop the scroll? “You have to create a ‘thumb-stopping moment’ that grabs people’s attention incredibly quickly. With TV there’s a narrative arc that you can build to a crescendo over 30 seconds. On mobile, you don’t have that luxury.”
KJ Weir, head of creative agency partnerships for Facebook and Instagram in the UK, agrees “On mobile, you’re not competing with TV shows or a film, you’re competing with short, snackable content. You can’t expect a lot of time or attention from your audience. Remember the context of the content on the platform.”
This might seem like a big challenge. But Weir says it can open new creative horizons. “Forgive the Star Wars reference, but as Yoda says: You must unlearn what you have learned. Just because you’re delivering a shorter message, doesn’t mean that it has to be less interesting or impactful.” The process works best, she says, when agencies work with clients and each other to view mobile as the starting point, rather than end point, of a campaign strategy.
Consumers, she says, are already there. “People are embracing new ways of communicating faster than any of us. The growth of Instagram Stories is a good example of that: vertical, short, visually engaging.”
Edwards says it’s best to start with an idea of what you want to achieve on a platform. “It might be brand awareness, driving traffic, increased reach or app installs - whatever it is, build your creative and campaign from there. There is no one-size-fitsall or quick-fix. To get the best from mobile, you simply cannot see it as an afterthought.”
And just how content created for TV won’t be right for mobile, the viewing metrics created for TV won’t work for mobile either. Advertisers often view duration as a proxy for video ad effectiveness, but that doesn’t reflect how people actually consume content on mobile. People look at content on their phones quickly throughout the day, in a variety of locations on a variety of formats. Even something glimpsed for a few seconds can have an impact.
Edwards believes that a better understanding of Facebook’s brand-building ability could transform campaign effectiveness for advertisers. “Facebook and Instagram can help advertisers drive consideration and long-term value, as opposed to just being a sales tool.” He continues: “What we’re seeing at the moment is a focus on the short term, with advertisers massively over-investing in pure play performance.”
That may be working for now, but as the “Father of Management Thinking” Peter Drucker said in1993, “long-term results cannot be achieved by piling short-term results on short-term results.” In 2013 the IPA echoed this statement with a study from adam&eveDDB head of effectiveness,Les Binet.
Binet outlined a “balanced campaign of long-term brand-driven growth and short-term activation” as one of the biggest drivers of efficiency.
This is as true now as it was then. Because while you can measure a lot by clicks, linked buys, likes and shares, in today’s market there is a lot to be said for building a strong, sustainable brand in the long-term.
HOW TO WIN ON MOBILE
1. Know your medium.
The smartphone screen is long, tall and doesn’t work well with widescreen content.
2. Think smartphone first.
Don’t make creative for mobile an afterthought. Building for the phone screen yields the best results.
3. Understand the context.
You’re competing with short, snackable content on social media. Don’t expect a disproportionate amount of time or attention from your audience.
4. Show your brand early.
If consumers scroll on, they’ll still know who the message is from.
5. Remember silent mode.
People tend to browse social media with their phones on silent, so make sure your ad makes sense in that context.