Online video in 2020: 6 essential creative rules that make all the difference
Video is omnichannel and omnipresent. It has become the currency for how people consume and exchange information online. With the tremendous growth of social media and the TikTok-ization of our society, online video (OLV) is pervasive -- 83 percent of internet users consumed OLV in 2019.
Needless to say, it is essential for brands to get OLV right. And it’s not easy, considering how much the rules continue to change, with mobile outpacing desktop and the increase in social media video viewership, making sound-off video a predominant form.
The following are six up-to-date tips for ensuring your OLVs succeed in 2020. Some of these rules can apply to TV and streaming videos as well.
1. Play to the platform
Your creative idea should be adaptable and customizable to every platform. It's also important to leverage the functionality of each platform. Start by building everything for mobile, as more than 50 percent of internet traffic is on mobile devices. Additionally, many platforms make shoppable content a one-click experience. Take advantage of those opportunities. Think about what your content should look like and say when it’s on a retailer site. It may be a slightly different, more functional message.
To provide the best user experience, adapt for all of the various specs in OLV and social. With Facebook/Instagram, for instance, there are five different aspect ratios: 16:9, 9:16, 1:1, 4:5 and 2:3.
2. One is (not) the loneliest number
Use one key takeaway in your creative. Remember, people are not seeking out your ads. Your ads are running before or during the content they want to see or are sandwiched between posts of interest on a social feed.
Make it clear what you want the audience to "get." The simpler, the better; one key takeaway from your ad is often the best you can hope for. If you use two takeaways, the viewer will remember neither. If your story is so complex that it can’t be told in under 15 seconds or with one takeaway, consider using sequencing with multiple pieces of content.
3. Follow the three-second rule
The days of an ad format that involves a problem that leads to a product/brand solution in the 25th second of the spot are long gone. While that can still sometimes work for linear TV (though I ask myself why) it doesn’t for OLV.
With OLV, attention spans are fleeting, and six-second skipping is a real threat. You have to perform the magic act of not only hooking the viewer in first three seconds, but also organically placing or using a product/service in the first three seconds. Not easy, but if you want to win in OLV, you need to do both.
Platform: All, except streaming.
4. Pace yourself
With the aforementioned short attention span online, the pace needs to be quick. Think of it as a heartbeat pace with ups and downs in the story, not a build. If you try to build it, they won’t come, and they won’t stay. Try to keep it 15 seconds and under.
5. Sound off for sound off and making videos bright
Sound and brightness are critical to your video being both seen and heard (kind of). Let’s start with sound. Most mobile videos are viewed with the sound off, as that is the default setting on social media and on many people’s devices. People may not be listening to your pre-roll OLV or social videos, so turn that into an advantage by turning “sound off” on its head. Use supers or text overlays not just to provide words, but as a character in your story. Make the graphics compelling.
Regarding brightness, you need to account for the many people who keep the brightness on their phones low so the battery doesn’t run out. Make your video extra bright, or avoid using dark tones. When reviewing creative for mobile, make sure to view it on a phone, not on a giant screen in a PowerPoint presentation.
Platform: Most digital display and social. YouTube has sound on.
6. Make it personal
All of the tips above focus on creative choices, and that is a critical part of the equation. But a key to success with any content is making it as relevant as possible to the target audience(s) via personalization.
There are a lot of tools available to efficiently take an original video asset and turn it into multiple pieces of content. Video units can then be personalized for different audience segments or based on triggers or signals people send. Search retargeting is the most basic signal of intent, but you can also personalize for geo, weather, mood, seasonality, time of day, etc.
You no longer have to settle for just one or two hero videos. And your videos don't need to be big Hollywood productions, which makes it easier to customize them. Sometimes, simple animated GIFs or stop-motion graphics can resonate just as much.
Platform: All, except Facebook, where you can personalize with fewer pieces of content via Facebook’s targeting/algorithm optimization.
Following these tips will set you up for success. Not following them could lead to your content not being seen, heard, watched or relatable.
One final tip: If you are producing search-based, how-to video content, many of the rules above apply, but follow this basic tenet: Help first; sell second. Immediately address the problem the consumer is interested in, and let the branding and product/service organically come through by helping solve the problem.