vzaar Chairman Gareth Cadwallader recently caught up with social video expert Barney Worfolk-Smith of Unruly Media to get the lowdown on how brands can harness the power of video sharing.
GC: Barney, one of the first things you said that struck me was that despite all the dancing cats and the increasing presence of longer-format film content, fully 25% of views of video on the web are of ads.
B: That’s right. But people who are interacting predominantly online need to be advertised to differently. More so than in the era of TV and print advertising, people are living in a live stream of conversations with their friends and colleagues. What your friends are retweeting and recommending has never been a more powerful influencer on buying decisions than it is for the online consumer today.
GC: And that has big implications for the way we think about our video marketing campaigns. More than ever, our ad content needs to get into those conversations and become part of the flow.
B: Yes, exactly. Smart brands don’t use their ads to interrupt the conversation. They become the conversation. This is the design criterion for ad campaigns today: to become the thing that your target audience is talking about.
GC: What would a good example of that be?
B: During the recent Superbowl – which has become a tent pole event in the global advertising calendar, GoPro remixed Felix Baumgartners astonishing Stratos jump. It’s in full HD and I shared it the moment I saw it.
GC: So, I know at Unruly you pride yourselves on your scientific approach to video sharing and ‘virality’. So, analyse the GoPro campaign for us.
B: You’ve got to start with the most powerful findings from our research: that, when it comes to content, there are two significant variables that get videos shared. First, videos that have highly emotional content get shared twice as much as those that don’t. It stands to reason, why would you share something amongst your peers that was average? The GoPro content isn’t just exciting. It’s exhilarating! Next, give people a reason to share. That could be attention seeking from their peers, a shared passion for extreme sports or tapping in to the zeitgeist of the moment. The GoPro piece manages several of these.
GC: So, tell me how I recognize highly emotional content when it’s at home?
B: You can get positive or negative emotional content. We talk in terms of arousal levels. Positive emotions that generate high arousal levels would include hilarity, inspiration, astonishment and exhilaration. Negative content that generates high arousal would be disgust, shock, deep sadness and anger.
GC: So videos with either positive or negative high arousal are more likely to get shared.
B: That’s right. If you are a creative artist, or maybe certain types of charity, or a Government agency issuing warnings you might find negative, high-arousal content to a really effective way of disseminating your message. The remake of the classic horror film Carrie used shock to great effect in a recent ‘prankvert’, for example. But if you are a commercial brand, you’re playing with fire. In practice, commercial brands are increasingly looking to mine those positive, high arousal attributes.
GC: So, the first big message is that online videos that get into the conversation need to evoke strong positive emotions and among those, stories of personal triumph can be particularly effective. What else?
B: One of the differences we’ve seen between TV and social video ads is that brands are often far more tentative about asserting themselves online. On average it takes 30 seconds for a brand to reveal itself in a social video, much longer than is typical in traditional media. So, we advise our clients to challenge themselves to express more of their pride in their brand up front.
GC: And I know you have a strong message about distribution, too. Despite the mythology, very few videos go viral without a plan, isn’t that right?
B: It is, yes. There’s a simple piece of arithmetic that says: if a video is only seen by a few people it can only be shared by a few people. Malcolm Gladwell has confused people with his book The Tipping Point into thinking that just a few key individuals can spontaneously turn a video that a hundred people have seen into a global phenomenon. In practice, while the tipping point effects can happen, the fact is if you want to have a reasonable chance that your video is seen by millions of people, it needs to be seen by many people on many platforms early on in its life. Get the arithmetic working for you, not against you.
GC: So, here at the start of 2014, what would you say are the practical implications for video marketers of Unruly’s research?
B: This is the year of the World Cup, and I think that more than ever before we are going to see brands focus on intense emotional content in their video campaigns. Of all the positive high-arousal attributes, exhilaration is the most effective when it’s successfully conveyed – effective in both the propensity to be shared and to be recalled. Likewise, we’ve undertaken a specific study in Brazil about sharing habits there and it’s the emotion that drives the highest sharing at the epicenter of the biggest global sporting event. So, I predict that 2014 will be the Year of Exhilaration when it comes to video marketing.
GC: Well, to finish on that highly positive emotional note, thanks so much for talking to us, Barney, and to everyone at Unruly for sharing your research on the Science of Sharing with us.