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As the new year gets underway, brands need to be paying attention to cinemagraphs for visual storytelling, because each image has all the visual punch and immediacy of video, without the barrier to entry of a play button.
The word "cinemagraph" stands for part cinema (moving image) and part photograph (static image). While part of the image moves in a subtle, seamless loop, the rest of the image remains still. This merging of static and moving image is disruptive -- sparking interest and deeper investigation by the viewer.
A quick search on Instagram for #cinemagraph reveals a wealth of dreamlike, artistic and captivating images, all featuring an element or two of movement -- from an overflowing mug of beer to flickering lights on a New York City building to a model's hair drifting in the breeze.
A cinemagraph is technically just a GIF, but aesthetically the cinemagraph -- when well-executed -- can deliver much more depth and impact than a purely static image or video clip. It is a moment, both with and without time, that can create a lasting impression for brands.
The use of cinemagraphs by brands has increased as social channels such as Facebook and Instagram bolster their auto-play video capabilities. This has opened the door for brands to employ cinemagraphs in more native, integrated and beautiful ways that help them reach consumers. We have found through our research that cinemagraph content tends to have more virality, with 71% higher organic reach than still photographs.
Despite the hype, cinemagraphs are not right for all brands. Wine and spirits, fashion and travel brands lend themselves particularly well to the format. Indeed, it was photographers Kevin Burg and Jaime Beck who invented the term "cinemagraph" and pioneered the technique in 2011, using it primarily for fashion and lifestyle photographs.
Here are four ways cinemagraphs can serve brands well, by bringing their stories to life in an understated, artistic way:
1. Keep it short, sweet and meaningful. Cinemagraphs are most powerful when they capture a simple, short and subtle moment of action. A brief loop that tells a story through a dress shifting in the breeze or wine poured for a friend can convey a lot of meaning in just a moment.
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2. A cinemagraph is worth 1,000 words. By drawing the eye to small details, cinemagraphs are extremely effective at capturing emotion, allowing viewers to feel as if they are sitting in the same coffee shop, stirring the same steaming latte.
3. The effect is beautiful. Cinemagraphs are perfect for adding luster to an already pretty picture. Luxury and lifestyle products especially shine -- and shimmer -- in cinemagraphs. A satin dress or leather jacket, when pictured on a model in a cinemagraph, has movement and shine that wouldn't come through in a simple still photograph.
4. Lower production costs make cinemagraphs especially attractive. When developing a campaign or content calendar, cinemagraphs offer an engaging format at a fraction of the cost of video.
As appealing and effective as cinemagraphs are, they aren't right for every situation. They shouldn't be used just because they're a trendy format or to add motion where it adds no narrative value. Awkward or odd motions should be avoided to ensure that the cinemagraph loops seamlessly to deliver a meaningful impact.
When done well and used effectively, cinemagraphs are an enchanting and beautiful tool for telling a brand's story. Auto-play looping capabilities on sites like Instagram and Facebook also mean that cinemagraphs are easy to consume, but hard to ignore.