Capture, Then Captivate: the Science and Magic Behind Video Ads That Connect

More than ever, creativity is currency

We can target not just more precisely, but more meaningfully. Getty Images

Consumers like video. Today they have unprecedented opportunities to watch it whenever, wherever and however they want on their own terms of convenience. And they are doing just that. About 50 percent of all network traffic is from video today. By 2021 it will be 75 percent. More 18- to 49-year-olds now visit YouTube on mobile every day than any TV network.

As marketers, this means we have unprecedented opportunities to serve our video advertising through addressable media, to individuals, about whom we have unprecedented levels of understanding, rather than hoping to find them in a demo.

Andrew Robertson, CEO of BBDO Worldwide
Headshot: Alex Fine

We can target not just more precisely, but more meaningfully. We know more about their path to purchase than we ever have (throw away those funnels) and can reach them with the right message, at the right time, in the right place and when they are most receptive. We can optimize delivery to maximize return on investment like never before. At least for the 30 percent. That’s the 30 percent of the available ROI that is driven by media optimization.

Multiple data sources have demonstrated that 70 percent to 80 percent of available advertising impact is driven by the content or, as we like to call it, for reasons that will become obvious, the creative.

How do we optimize that? Firstly, a brand needs a big creative platform, a foundation upon which every execution can be another brick in an ever stronger brand wall, not simply more rubble to add to the pile of discarded content.

Then we need to work hand in hand with our media partners, off the same data that they are using, to aggregate individuals into addressable segments. Segments that are defined not just by their consumption (or not) of a particular brand or category, but by their motivations and interests as human beings. We need to size these segments to ensure that they are big enough to matter, and that, in aggregate, we still have the reach to grow a brand.

Using this understanding of these segments, we have to architect a complex messaging plan with individual executional briefs that drive the creative: What is this segment going to be most motivated by in our brand story—and at the moment it will be served? What are their interests? Where will they be watching, not just which network, channel or platform; not just digital or on YouTube, but which device or devices; whether they will be on the go or at home in their pajamas; whether they will have the sound on or off; and how long we have to capture and hold their attention?

We need to work hand in hand with our media partners, off the same data that they are using, to aggregate individuals into addressable segments.

Informed by a single data set, a single view of our audience segments, we can hone our creative product to reflect the interests of our target consumers. We can go where they go, be where they want to be, and then craft our messages in just the right format for just the right moment where the opportunity to influence a purchase decision is at its greatest. And it will require more and more embracing the authenticity and the DNA of each and every platform and getting comfortable with new ways of telling stories.

This is essentially a mass precision plan that makes use of a Swiss Army knife of tools. On YouTube alone, a 6-second bumper ad should be conceived, crafted and produced as such, not simply as a cut-down of the two-minute TrueView ad you’re also producing. And both will likely need to be different from the video you produce to run in the newsfeed on Facebook. And we should start with these. Anything that works on Facebook or YouTube will definitely work on television. The opposite may not be true.

It’s a lot of work, but it can help us make executions that are more relevant and that, we know, drive results. That will get us some of the other 70 percent nonoptimized ROI. But if we really want to maximize the return, we need to add another magic ingredient, creativity—the magical ability (and it is magical)—to capture and hold the attention of an individual while we give her some information, a demonstration, or an experience that changes the way she feels, the way she thinks, and most important of all, the way she behaves.

If we want to hit the top of that return curve, it’s not enough to capture; we have to captivate. And there’s no algorithm for that.

As David Lynch has said, “Ideas are like fish. You can’t make a fish. You can only catch a fish.” Time to go fishing.

Andrew Robertson (@RobertsonAndrew) is president and CEO of BBDO Worldwide.

This story first appeared in the May 15, 2017, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.