People who create engaging video advertisements really have their work cut out for them. There’s so much that needs to be achieved in 30 seconds.
The internet and its various video channels (YouTube, Vimeo etc.) have made it much more difficult. There are thousands of hilarious, touching or terrifying viral videos out there. The standard for entertainment or use value is very high. People browsing the web are highly attuned to things they’re interested in and will navigate away at the click of a button if they don’t find your content engaging.
Well, the next obvious question is: what do they find engaging? The internet is littered with memes that could act as a basis or starting point for an engaging ad, but finding one that suits your brand is time-consuming, and there’s no guarantee that it will be received well (although it’s definitely worth keeping your eyes peeled for useful ones.)
In short, what makes online video ads successful is their emotive appeal. If an ad isn’t based on bizarre internet humour (see Boone Oakley), it needs to appeal to the viewer’s base emotions.
Volkswagen’s musical staircase
Sustainability is a big issue at the moment, especially in the wake of the inconclusive outcome at Copenhagen. In light of this, Volkswagen employed Stockholm agency DDB to come up with an environmentally minded campaign. DDB created ‘The Fun Theory’, a campaign based on the idea that fun is the easiest way to change people’s behaviour. The first piece of content they created was a video in which they rigged a metro staircase to operate like the keyboard of a piano. They managed to encourage 66% more people to take the more environmental option of the stairs over the escalator. It’s a relatively complicated way of demonstrating their idea, but it’s effective: the video is humorous, entertaining and touching, and frames Volkswagen in a very positive light.
It’s unusual to find a successful online video that is over two minutes in length. One that’s over 12 minutes is almost unheard of. Although this video‘s success owes a lot to its impeccable production values, the thing that convinces people to stay for the long haul is the mute characters and how they manage to overcome their stifled, office-bound existence to eventually meet. You have to hand it to Schweppes (the product behind the ad)-even with a perfect shot video, engaging people for this long is hard to do.
Vanilla Ice apologises
The Vanilla Ice apology video is emotive on a number of levels. It appeals to viewers by capitalising on the nostalgia associated with 80’s culture, and also to their sense of humour regarding the cultural missteps of that period (of which, Van Winkle agrees, Vanilla Ice was most certainly one). Engaging emotionally with nostalgia is effective, but countering it with acutely awkward humour cements the message of the advertisement. The video was commissioned by Virgin Records as a means of promoting a portal devoted to ‘Righting music wrongs’. Once presented with the baffling apology, the URL leads to an entire site where viewers can point out and vote (not to mention sign up for updates) on the most unsightly aspects of pop music history.
The next two aren’t strictly online only, having appeared during the 2009 Superbowl in the US.
The first is an ad created by Google. It tells the narrative of a young man falling in love with a Parisian girl, all through search terms. It’s a remarkably simple idea, but one that marries a quaintly compelling narrative with the brand and the functionality of its product.
Careerbuilder.com is a job classifieds website. Their contribution sews together a series of increasingly absurd portraits of people who are unhappy with their job–all of which build-up to the catch-phrase ‘it’s time (to get a new job). It’s not often you find an ad that is engaging because of how stressful it is to watch. The fact that the miserable episodes are punctuated with a couple of absurdly funny ones means that the message conveyed by the video is very confused and confusing, emotionally but in a way that stays with you.
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