Six months ago I had a vision. I set out to express it with paint. I stretched the canvas, added the primer in an even coat across every edge and arranged all my materials. As I painted I was conscious of color, composition and the emotions conveyed by my images. For months I worked and reworked the painting, and even in the wildest moments of creative abandon I was aware of the context in which the painting would appear: a large canvas hung on a wall, several feet away from the viewer.
While we may work in different mediums, I'm sure the creative director for your TV commercial meticulously planned out every microsecond of your 30-second ad, just as I controlled the journey my painting took to completion. The difference is that my painting will only appear in the environment in which it was designed to live, while your creative director's TV spot will be poked and prodded in all kinds of ways.
It might get cut in half to be placed in the traditionally shorter mobile environment. It will be shrunk down to be viewed on a 4-inch screen just inches from the viewer's face—far from the originally imagined 50-inch screen that sits a few feet from the TV viewer. Any text that's been added will become virtually unreadable on the tiny screen. The beautiful vision is barely visible when you simply repurpose a TV spot for a mobile device.
I'm not pointing this out because I like to hate on advertising. In fact, it's the complete opposite. I care deeply about all things creative. Between my day job as a creative director and my two decades as an artist, I think about creative all the time. I can't help it. Every interaction in my day is naturally filtered through the perspective of how it is designed—cloud formations, city blocks, the story arc of my favorite TV series, you name it.
Like art, mobile is hugely personal. We're more connected with these mini-computers in our pockets than anything else, human or technological. Where are the pictures of your family today? What do you do when you're standing in line at the deli waiting to order lunch? Where do you store all your important information like passwords and account numbers? What wakes you up in the morning and keeps track of time for you all day?
Why would you take something so personal and ingrained in our lives and force-feed the same video you've used to reach the masses in other mediums? Mobile users personalize every aspect of their mobile devices, so think of your ad as an extension of that personalization. If your mobile ad is intrusive or annoying, you're not achieving your goals, or worse—you're creating a negative association with your brand for the user.
I've seen thousands of video ads, and in my opinion there's no such thing as an OK mobile video ad; they're either great, and I want to spend more time with the brands, or they're awful, and I find myself looking for the close button.
It's easy to get caught up in talk of data and numbers while forgetting the importance of making something that looks good, communicates a clear message and connects with the user on a personal level. Think like a consumer for a minute and consider whether or not you'd want to see your own mobile ad.
To truly make an impact on mobile, marketers should be thinking about the creative that will be used on these devices from the start, rather than treating it as an afterthought. The messages should be focused, custom to this environment and use features that serve as a utility for consumers, such as mapping to a location nearby. Grab users quickly and engage them. Also keep in mind that just because you have these tools at your disposal doesn't mean you have to use them all. A crowded video ad is just as bad as a repurposed pre-roll. Lastly, don't trick viewers into spending time with the ad or make it hard to get out. The mobile user is your friend, and should be treated as one.
Mobile ads can resonate and connect if we consider the viewing experience from the beginning and remember that the creative is what will ultimately win the consumer over.
Ad Age / Creativity / Tremor Video's third annual Super Creative Video Ad Challenge, which shows the world how powerful interactive mobile video advertising can be for brands and advertisers, closes on Oct. 24.
About the Sponsor
Les Seifer is creative director at Tremor Video, a video ad tech company based in New York. His artwork, including paintings and concert posters, has been showcased in museums, galleries and books across the globe.