Whatever type of business or not for profit organisation you’re involved in, the growth in popularity of video marketing won’t have escaped your notice. In fact, the world of on-line marketing is now dominated by video adverts. What used to be the province of large organisations, with very deep pockets, who could afford the huge costs of advert production and subsequent airing on commercial TV, is now within the scope of even the smallest business. This phenomenon is essentially down to two trends: firstly, the decreasing costs of production technology, which has reduced the cost of broadcast quality equipment massively over the last 15 years, and secondly the seismic socio-technological shift in communication brought about by the growth of the internet over the same period. Platforms like YouTube and Facebook, which, little over a decade ago, were still smile (or frown) inducing curiosities, are now leviathans in the world of marketing, boasting regular user numbers in the billions! What was once thought of as an expensive novelty, even to internet marketing companies, video advertising is now recognised as having one of the best Return-on-Investment potentials of any internet marketing strategy.

So, what makes a good video advert

Firstly, to be successful, a good social media video advert needs to incorporate and skilfully blend three key aims of media production: to inform, to persuade and to entertain. While other kinds of media product often focus more exclusively upon one or two of these key aims (many feature films, for example, are generally focussed purely upon entertainment), loosely speaking, a good video advert needs to encapsulate all three:

  • Entertain an audience in order to grab and maintain its attention
  • Persuade that audience of a need
  • Inform the audience of how your product or service can satisfy that need

The skill of the video advertiser lies in constructing and then realising a narrative, which successfully blends these three in order to convince the consumer to engage with the featured product or service.

Secondly, though clearly connected with the above, a good social media video advert will also establish clear brand association with the resolving of the identified need, emphasising how the unique selling points of a particular brand aid that resolution more effectively (than competitors)!

At this point, it’s worth looking at a classic advert, albeit from 1990s, when video advertising was strictly confined to mainstream TV broadcast, where the above ideas are combined perfectly.

In this ad, as surgeons discuss the complex medical issues and consequent implications for work that face the patient, one of our worst fears, that of financial instability, is played upon, persuading us of a real and present need! We are then offered on-screen relief from the seriousness of the situation, as those involved break into a song and dance routine over a classic Hollywood standard, planting entertaining and incredibly memorable images in our mind. This, combined with the closing, double-entendre exchange between surgeon and anaesthetist: “How’s he doing?” – “He’s comfortable!”, hints that salvation is at hand. As we leave the scene, a voiceover informs us of products that can protect us against unexpected financial shocks. The advert closes by creating strong brand association with a powerful tagline: “Allied Dunbar. For the life you don’t yet know”. This was one of a suite of adverts, all of which contained similar themes and all of which used the same basic structure and narrative tools, thereby reinforcing the message of the other adverts in the campaign.

While this would have been an expensive advert to produce and air, it exemplifies how good video advertising combines all of the key aims outlined above, while creating powerful brand associations, resulting in a superb piece of marketing! While our messages may not be quite so profound, or our budget quite so vast as that of Allied Dunbar, we can still apply the principles embodied in this classic TV advert to our own social media video ads.

Entertainment

We don’t have to deploy on-screen comedy, drama or action in order to entertain. Imagination and a sense of design can all provide us with visually stimulating material. For example, closeups of well-presented plates of food and slo-mo footage of hands lovingly garnishing them, exciting images of a dish being flambéed or time-lapse footage of a soufflé rising in an oven, are all potentially captivating for someone viewing an advert for a local restaurant. Equally, time-lapse footage of a design gradually emerging on someone’s skin at the hands of a master body artist, aerial-reconnaissance style closeups that survey the skin of a heavily inked model, or a hint of eroticism resulting from a tantalising glimpse of a more intimate adornment, can all be used to increase engagement in an advert for a tattoo parlour. As with so much in the world of videography, transposing subjects from a mundane, everyday context, to an unfamiliar realm of abstraction invariably pays dividends.

Persuasion

No matter what your business or organisation provides, its very existence is inevitably the result of identified a need or needs, so at least half of the battle is won in terms of persuading an audience, because you’re not having to conjure something up from thin air. Persuading your audience that they have an interest in this need relies upon placing them in, or at least presenting them with, a situation whereby they can see relevance and even take ownership of the need in question. For example, showing a family stranded on the motorway, emphasising the restlessness of children and the frustration of accompanying adults as they brave the elements on a roadside embankment, would be a great way to establish and reinforce the need for regular and reliable vehicle maintenance offered by a local garage.

Informing and creating brand association

Inclusion of logos, views of distinctive premises features, product showcasing, and promotional slogans all have potential to inform the viewer that you are here to satisfy their need. But more blatant methods such as voiceover, text overlays or soundbite features of team members talking about a product or service are also valid ways to get your key messages across to the viewer. Just as vital, however, is the extolling of unique selling points that let the audience know how well and how much better you can satisfy their need than alternative providers. Advertising standards rules may prevent us from blatantly saying that we’re better than our competitors (unless, that is, we can objectively and unequivocally prove that we are). However, creating and reinforcing powerful messages surrounding things like quality, authenticity, sustainability, ethical sourcing, product longevity, craftsmanship, and so on, all help to paint a picture of superiority over our rivals, without resorting to explicit statement. An excellent example of a simple, single word inclusion in product promotion, which has captured the imagination of countless beer drinkers world wide, is craft, which evokes all sorts of images of authenticity, timeless and hard learned skills, and a distinct superiority over mass produced products.

Target audience and style

Whatever your business, identifying and understanding the audience, at which your social media advert is targeted, is key! For example, the Allied Dunbar advert above (like the other adverts from this campaign) is aimed squarely at a particular age range, income bracket, and gender (sorry, it was the 90s and men were still seen as the main wage earners). While brilliant for its target audience, this advert really wouldn’t strike any chords with people in their early twenties, for example, who tend to be broke, have few or no commitments and will of course live for ever. Likewise, the advert below, from the Nike Corporation, would fail to win over the hearts and minds of anyone over 20, as it is clearly aimed at athletically aspirant teenagers.

All manner of elements in your social media video advert should be governed by its target audience demographic; their hopes, fears, aspirations, income group, religious and racial origin/s, gender identity, spending habits, attention span, and tastes, being among the things that inform narrative content, advert length, production style, language, colours, fonts and soundtrack used, etc. This means that long before a single frame is shot, extensive research should be conducted, in order to identify and understand your target audience. Fortunately, these days, detailed information on different demographics is very easy to come by online, even though this may be at a cost. Having said that, the very social media platforms that you will be advertising on give useful feedback on those who have engaged with your ads, which can be used to inform future campaigns.

The individual platforms chosen by different audience groups will also have a baring upon your social media video adverts, as different audience demographics will gravitate towards different platforms, as they browse and consume media content. For example, understanding the 60 second video format of Instagram and the user base that prefers this, when compared to Facebook, which typically enjoys longer audience engagement, but that is typically inhabited by a different audience demographic, can be pretty crucial, both to your choice of advertising platform and the nature of video content you post on it. If you want to exploit both of these platforms, you may well need to create two different versions of your video ad, in order for it to be most effective.

In addition to considering the relationship between your social media video advert and its target audience demographic, in terms of the parameters outlined above, increasingly, content creators and host platforms are becoming increasingly aware of the shift in consumption habits from desktop (landscape aspect ratio screen) and the trend towards viewing video on hand held devices, which are frequently held vertically. This has already led to some platforms, such as YouTube, offering vertical players as a core part of their service.

Technical requirements

While YouTube seems to happily transcode pretty much any video format that you choose to throw at it, some platforms will only accept more restricted file sizes and file types. With this in mind, it’s worth doing your research in order to ensure that the file type/s you are rendering your advert to are compatible. OK, it’s not usually too challenging to render an alternative file but understanding that you need to do this in advance can save both time and frustration. Social media platforms always publish their file requirements for both video and still photos, but you may need to look for this and to do a little reading in order to ensure you’re getting the best out of your video ad when posted online.

Legal and community requirements

Even a video advert, made on a shakily held smartphone, which advertises a Sunday afternoon garage sale, is subject to both national regulations and to community rules, specific to the chosen social media platform. In the UK, the Advertising Standards Authority take a dim view of any advert which, deliberately or otherwise, makes false claims about a product, service or the provider of that product/service. The ASA is also pretty uncompromising about advertising content that, again deliberately or otherwise, encourages hate, which causes unnecessary offence, which appears to misrepresent a community, or which shows content for general consumption that breaches age restrictions. Every territory will have its own, subtly different rules and it is up to the advertiser to comply. Similarly, online communities such as Facebook, YouTube and Instagram all have their own subtly different community guidelines, which you ignore at your peril. Regardless of how cheaply your social media video advert was produced, if you can’t use it, you’ve wasted money, so beware!

Mooma Media offers a range of video production services to individuals, small businesses and not-for-profit organisations operating in the West Midlands region. Mooma offers competitive quotes to produce website or social media marketing videos and to film or live-stream events. To find out more about any of Mooma Media’s services, use the contact button below.