As part of Facebook’s Creative Shop, I explore how to make advertising relevant for people, and in turn effective for businesses, by studying the intersection of brands, people and technology.
After examining ad content across our apps during the COVID-19 pandemic, my team noticed that video production quality dropped dramatically in the absence of conventional shoots. So we’ve been tracking the increasing dominance of videos with a deliberately unpolished quality to find out when “lo-fi,” as we call it, can equal high impact.
Lo-fi is rooted in relevance and authenticity
Lo-fi refers to the shared visual language across social apps like Facebook and Instagram. It’s not a production process; it’s about being fluent in a creative language that’s authentic, relatable and inventive. This trend isn’t new, but it is very much now, and it has been accelerated by the pandemic.
We’re seeing several themes emerge:
- Platform-native style: Lo-fi advertising feels natural on our apps and contextual in Facebook News Feed. Through the use of mobile-shot videos and the adoption of recognizable codes such as gifs, stickers and text overlays, advertisers are able to connect with their audiences by tapping into a language that's created and owned by their communities.
- Community connection: Lo-fi advertising leverages interactive tools such as live video, Facebook Shops, polling, augmented reality filters and more, inviting people to connect with culture and with one another.
- Real stories, real people: Lo-fi advertising often puts real people and their stories center stage, delivering relatable creative that portrays life without artifice.
- Single message, simply executed: Effective lo-fi ads are grounded in a memorable idea and expressed through the lens of the brand’s distinctive assets.
Lo-fi, high impact
This diverse style authentically communicates in the context that people have come to expect on our apps. But does that correlate with effectiveness?
We have seen some evidence that in certain categories—including e-commerce, retail and CPG—lo-fi is associated with better performance than ads with a high degree of polish. In a 2019 study, for example, we found that self-recorded creative from advertisers outperformed studio-shot creative in Facebook Stories for content views 84% of the time. Of course, lo-fi does not necessarily mean low quality; we’re still seeing immense originality, creativity and craft in high-impact lo-fi advertising.
This is good news for businesses because it suggests that highly produced videos (and a correspondingly high price tag) aren’t always essential for success.
Brands are speaking the visual language of our apps
On Facebook and Instagram, many brands use lo-fi to signify accessibility and relevance, even when highly crafted creative is deployed elsewhere. Those in the luxury category, for example, are particularly adept at “code switching” between aspirational polish in above-the-line marketing and youthful approachability across digital channels.
In other categories, Dunkin has leaned into Instagram Reels to create entertaining content that features its products in relatable yet surprising ways. With just a knife, a cutting board and a few of its products, Dunkin’ created mouthwatering inspiration that is very on-brand. Dunkin’ also demonstrates what we believe to be true: that lo-fi is not about visual uniformity. Brands don't need to choose between an ownable sense of themselves and speaking a shared visual language. High-impact lo-fi advertising is about doing both.
Pampers campaign leveraged the power of community to create and share daily supportive Facebook Stories from real, diverse mom influencers while transforming the “mirror affirmation” trend into easy-to-use digital tools in a wide array of messages, from sentimental to humorous. And for the Brazil-based brand Amaro, jumping into an outfit-change trend gave it the chance to test out new ways to showcase its products and create something culturally relevant.
The shared language of lo-fi will continue to evolve, but there are certain attributes that we believe are here to stay. So, when thinking about the content that works best for your brand, look no further than your customers to ensure that the videos you create will resonate and inspire. Because ultimately, lo-fi is democratic; it is made by people, and it’s about people. It’s immediate and spontaneous, moving at the speed of culture. And it connects us.
To learn more about video across Facebook apps and services, visit Facebook for Business.