Grabbing viewers’ attention

Branded film content is borrowing from Hollywood and creating attention grabbing hooks within seconds of watching

Cinema visitors may have spotted that movie trailers have had a revamp. Gone are the days of the sonorous, male voice over outlining the main facets of the plot, replaced instead by six-second preludes, detailing exactly what will happen over the next two minutes. It is a trend that has not escaped the notice of those producing videos in the corporate world.

Martyn Gooding, creative director at brand experience agency Jack Morton, explains: ‘[Film makers have] had to frontload their narrative with a Here’s what you’re going to watch so people watch until the end. That’s a trend that has kicked in over the last year and we’ve mirrored that in the communications industry.

‘You give people an overture, like in music, in the first six seconds, to get the audience’s attention and let them know what they are signing up for. Where people go wrong is by sticking to a traditional narrative structure, which has a slow start, something in the middle and pays off at the end. That’s when you see really early drop off.’

It is all down to the brevity afforded by social media and our shortening attention spans. Gooding adds: ‘Very few videos are watched until the end. One of the most successful campaigns I’ve worked on, we got 70 per cent completed views – that is a very high number. But what that says is that you can’t leave your messaging pay off until the end because essentially no one is going to see it.’

‘Good video has that ‘thumb stopping’ power, the ability to stop someone mid-surf, to entice someone to spend a few seconds watching and hopefully enjoying the video,’ asserts Simon Rutherford, managing director at Cubaka.

‘Good video needs to do this whilst meeting whatever the content objective is. Whichever way you look at it, those first few seconds of a social video are critical to drawing people into the content and hopefully having them watch it through.’

However, while Rutherford concedes that the concept must be good enough to capture the audience’s attention, he feels there is a little leeway when it comes to duration, although messages must still be conveyed in seconds.

‘Since the days of Vine, and the introduction of native video to all social channels, some video has actually become a bit longer,’ he explains. ‘We got used to telling stories in six seconds (and enjoyed doing so), now we average more like 20 seconds for bigger budget productions.

‘In this format we know the first three seconds are critical so we try to get off to a strong start. But additionally GIFs, and Boomerang [an Instagram feature that creates mini videos that loop back and forth] offer fun and sometimes mesmerising content.

‘Then there’s Stories [user-generated photo or video content uploaded to Facebook], typically filmed or collated on a phone; it’s an ephemeral format which brands are still getting to grips with. Some brands are embracing the format; others are steering clear for now, not quite knowing how to make it fit with their brand.’

It is vital that the video aligns properly with its respective brand. ‘A video binds the campaign and gives it a visual and tonal identity, so in short it makes a huge difference,’ says Pete Waite, senior producer at We Are Social Studios. ‘While convenient and efficient for the consumer, video marketing provides marketers with an attractive, versatile, and extremely shareable medium to reach their audiences.’

The sticking point for such content, once again, is how to measure the impact of such a video. ‘For a brand video, typically success will be measured by the amount of time people spend with a video, measured by multiplying the number of people who watch a video by the number of seconds they spent with that video,’ says Rutherford.

‘Couple that with some qualitative metrics, such as the engagement rate beyond video viewing (how many people like or share), and the relevancy score (which measures how relevant a video is deemed to be for a particular audience). Then you have a well-rounded view on whether the video was successful.’

Assessing impact without a call-to-action is a somewhat less precise art. ‘You can assume its impact,’ Rutherford continues. ‘You have to assume that if tens of thousands of consumers have each spent a number of seconds with branded video content then awareness of that brand has increased. The assumptions are not dissimilar to traditional video formats like TV.’

Gooding says his personal metric is getting video content onto the front page of Reddit, the online platform which claims to collate ‘the best of the Internet in one place’, because ‘it means that is has penetrated culture’. But such successes are rare.

‘It’s a deliberately difficult goal to reach, which is why it works,’ explains Gooding. ‘Reddit is very anti-advertising so anything that reaches the front page has to be something special, something that resonates and feels like it’s made entirely selflessly for the consumer. The only thing I’ve seen of late that’s managed it is Nike’s Nothing beats a Londoner.’

Waite says that brands should always be on the lookout for ‘shareable’ moments in order to gain traction with their content. ‘Whenever possible brands should build Did you see that? moments into their social video content,’ he asserts. ‘You want those double takes, the moments which prompt a conversation and shares, encouraging repeat views. Whilst humour may not be appropriate for all branded content, it’s a key element in making it shareable, so include it if you can.’

But whilst shares can increase views and give you valuable feedback on how a video is being received, using it as a metric can still be unreliable. ‘People don’t share branded communication that often,’ says Gooding. ‘Numbers are typically a reflection of how much media money you have and how effective your media buy is. It’s not reflective of how creative your storytelling is.’

Waite agrees. ‘Although the overall reach of your content may be the closest proxy to whether you’ve achieved your marketing goals, it’s often impacted to varying degrees by media spend (and the quality of that spend),’ he says. ‘To really help you understand how well you’ve done from a content creation perspective, look for organic views, social shares and engagement.’

Rather like Kevin Costner’s If you build it, they will come assertion in Field of Dreams, engagement will come if the content is good enough. But video’s power also lies in the fact that is not static.

‘The power is with the visuals,’ says Gooding. ‘A picture tells a thousand words. If you look at what people are drawn to and what people spend time with, primarily it’s visual and then second it’s moving. Both of those things tie into growth of moving image content.

‘Interestingly, the sound aspect of it has been massively deprioritised because most people watch things on mute. Given that most media consumption is on mobile phones, everyone watches video on mute, unless they are settling in to watch Netflix.’

‘Video provides instant scale and reach,’ says Waite, ‘It gives the emotional clout which makes the most successful campaigns. It also provides the ability to conjure brands out of nothing and make them household names.’ For brand awareness videos, there can be no larger goal than that.