Honest Advertising

Honesty Is the Future of Advertising

Advertisers have reached a tipping point with the sheer amount of products they shove into the faces of consumers on a daily basis. The advertising landscape is more like a landfill, each new offering toppling over the last on a heap of noise engineered to sell stuff.

Indeed, advertisers around the globe are expected to spend $606.90 billion in 2016, a 6.5 percent increase over last year. The average consumer is estimated to have been exposed to as many as 5,000 ads a day in 2015 alone. Imagine what these numbers will look like by 2020. This presents a major challenge for brands, especially as they seek to become less branded and more human. Brands must decide whether they want to — or if they even can — create content that doesn’t need to be measured by its affect on a company’s revenue stream. And lastly, if they’re not selling a product, then they need to communicate the idea or feeling they’re selling.

The common denominator: What matters is people.

In order to build trust, brands need to stop pushing products on people and start caring about, well, people. Human beings want a brand that thinks they matter and will vow to make a difference in their lives and others.

Here’s what they should consider for their advertising:

Stop selling

What a brand stands behind is more important than what they sell, that’s why most brands are veering away from pushing their product and instead pulling you into what they believe. For example, Always’ “Like a Girl” (see video below) campaign builds on the brand’s core principles of empowering women. The ad resonated with consumers because it repositioned the brand’s moral choices by telling us something that mattered. It represented femininity on screen — and it shifted our perception of Always. It’s more about what the brand stands for than the products they represent. The ad has nearly 60 million views on YouTube and dozens of accolades from ad industry experts.

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First, listen and then empathize

Naturally, when telling a story, you must understand your audience and then share their feelings back to them. Your tone, language and even the content must mirror the way your audience feels. One campaign that really excelled at targeting their audience was Save the Children’s “Most Shocking Second Day Video.” They highlighted a little girl’s life in the U.K. slowly devolving through a montage that eventually imagines how her life would look if she were a typical little girl in Syria.

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It is essential to listen to your audience and then empathize with them. Whether it’s through anecdotal conversations on social, word of mouth, or focus groups, the efforts have to be genuine. Understanding what audiences need, like, dislike, and value are the seeds towards listening and empathy.

Then, respond with authenticity

No matter the message, positive or negative, brands must trust that their audiences are as smart as they are. No longer can you distract your audience by treating them like a 1-year-old; you have to face them head on, and respond using thoughtful, honest messages. Earning an audience is no longer instantaneous; it requires delayed gratification and integrity. Consumers want to get behind brands that put them before their profit margins.

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In an ideal world we would be surrounded with great advertising with an honest philosophy like Coca Cola’s It’s Beautiful (above) and Chipotle’s Back to the Start. More than ever, we see small storytelling opportunities turn into big conversation starters that allow brands to create more meaningful content, reveal their true voice, convey their principles, and even apologize or start anew.

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So brands, say something that’s true to your audience — and say it boldly, and be honest. You’ll stand out from the crowd and you’ll share something unique and important with the world. That should be the future of advertising.

visual storytelling trends

5 Hot Visual Storytelling Trends (Part 2)

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed the first part of our blog post about visual storytelling trends. If not, you might want to read it first. If you have read it, let’s continue with the second part and find out what 2016 will bring us.

1 Interactive Storytelling

In a previous post, we noted the growing popularity of the unique hybrid form of interactive stories. A seamless integration of a variety of mediums–from the written word and still images to interactive graphs, maps and animations–the interactive story is paving the way for new forms of transmedia storytelling in our convergence culture. These highly versatile formats are singular in their ability to give the user the freedom to navigate information, choose possible narrative paths and delve as deep as they desire into a certain topic.

While these highly interactive stories require more time and resources to produce, they also have a longer lifespan than your average piece of content. These interactive stories, for example, are still being viewed years after they were first posted.

As it becomes less time-consuming and expensive to produce these types of stories, more and more companies will start to resort to this innovative storytelling format, such as CUNA Brokerage Services did with this interactive module.

Larger corporations such as American Express are crafting game-like experiences in which users can explore scenes with a 360-degree view. This interactive musical experience starring Taylor Swift, for example, features dozens of rooms, scenes, characters, objects and intertwined story-lines waiting to be discovered by users.

No longer the sole terrain of media giants such as The New York Times and The Guardian, interactive storytelling is going to continue to be the center of attention of corporations and organizations in the coming years.

 

2 Virtual Reality

News and media giants such as Facebook and The New York Times are already making hefty investments in virtual reality technology. Meanwhile, SXSW Interactive, a conference for interactive technology trendsetters, predicts 2016 will be the year in which virtual and augmented reality will explode.

While it still may take a few years for VR technology to go truly mainstream, early adopters will quickly set the stage for surging interest among the rest of the population by the end of the year when Facebook (Oculus) and Samsung release Gear VR, a new virtual reality headset.

Virtual reality presents exciting opportunities for storytelling. Besides being able to have out-of-body and fly-on-the-wall experiences, users will also be able to walk a mile in another person’s shoes. By immersing viewers in experiences they would never have in real life–as is done in this made for VR story of a face-to-face encounter with opposing enemies in a war–people will be able to feel first-hand what it’s like to be someone else.

The World Economic Forum, for example, is already using VR technology to craft an immersive story of what it’s like to be a Syrian refugee. Called Project Syria, the story draws elements from actual audio, video and images taken on scene.

 

3 The Internet of Things

Known also as the “Network of Everything,” the Internet of Things is the network of physical objects embedded with electronics, software and sensors to allow them to be sensed and controlled remotely across a network infrastructure. This has huge implications as it will allow the direct integration of physical objects and computer-based systems. But what does this mean for visual storytelling?

According to experience designer Lance Weiler, wherever technology has gone, storytelling has followed. As the Internet of Things develops, it will provide the possibility of creating a story layer over the real world by allowing real objects and physical locations to become extensions of a fictional narrative. He also foresees that “experience designers” will soon become the “film directors of the 21st century.”

He is already living this prediction out by producing interactive documentaries such as Bear71. Incorporating everything from facial detection software and motion sensors to wireless trail cams and augmented reality, this groundbreaking film allows viewers to become animals who are tracked within the fictional world of the film.

 

4 Real-Time Storytelling

Since March, companies and media organizations have been warming up to two new live-streaming apps: Periscope and Meerkat. Although streaming live video is nothing new, the new apps enhance social media storytelling by linking the live stream to a Twitter or Facebook account and allowing thousands of followers to view it in real time.

Fast food company Wendy’s, for example, used the apps in June to feature the comedy duo Rhett & Link. As they chatted with Periscope viewers, more than 4,400 people visited the company’s website. In June, Frito Lay also streamed a game show that allowed viewers to win prizes, while advertising a new product to more than 15,000 viewers.

 

5 Wearable Tech

Wearables such as Google Glass and the Apple Watch are also revolutionizing the way storytellling is done. Groundbreaking in its ability to gather stories from a mobile, first-person point-of-view and include any number of people in the storytelling process, Google Glass has already been used by citizen journalists to record and document arrests. It has also been used by a former TV journalist to tour the U.S. and tell the stories of disabled veterans in a way that has never been done before (see video above).

The device can also be used to create what’s called augmented storytelling. An augmented mystery story, for example, might have a commentator feeding information to one viewer, such as “Character A is lying because of X reason,” while a second viewer might be watching the same show but receiving different feedback from the commentator. In the end, the two can compare their experiences of the mystery and then compare conclusions.

Meanwhile, the Apple Watch allows you to gather biometric data to tell an unconventional story. For example, an out-of-the-box story about an exciting day may include heart rate data collected with the Apple Watch, which is then visualized using an interactive graph, chart or infographic.

As you can see 2016 has some great things in mind for us if it comes to visual storytelling. We at Southern Wild Productions follow the trends closely and are excited to start using these new ways of storytelling in our productions.

visual storytelling

5 Hot Visual Storytelling Trends (Part 1)

In the era of the internet and mobile devices we finally have a chance of using visual storytelling to it’s full potential. People are visually oriented creatures that want to communicate effectively. This definitely goes for businesses through advertising. So let’s look at why visual storytelling works so well in this first part.

“We now live in a world where information is potentially unlimited. Information is cheap, but meaning is expensive. Where is the meaning? Only human beings can tell you where it is. We’re extracting meaning from our minds and our own lives.”

The science historian and futurist George Dyson made this insightful observation back in 2011, but his words could not be more true today. In a world inundated with information and big data, the task at hand for editors, graphic artists, illustrators, programmers and journalists is not to create more information, but to make sense of what’s already out there.

And this is where visual storytelling comes into the picture. A combination of two powerful concepts–visual content and storytelling–visual storytelling is the next big thing in every field related to communication, from content marketing and graphic design to data journalism and digital media.

To illustrate the enormous power of these two concepts combined, let’s tackle each individually.

Fastest Growing Social Networks in 2015Fastest Growing Social Networks in 2014-2015

Fastest Growing Social Networks in 2014-2015 (Source: GlobalWebIndex)

 

Visual Content Reigns

Visual content is by far the most effective medium of communication on the Internet today. Whether it comes in the form of stunning images, captivating video, or colorful infographics, visual content is the new king of the digital world.

The numbers also attest to this. According to statistics from November 2014, image-based social media platforms such as Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram grew exponentially, outpacing traditionally text-based platforms many times over (see graph above, no newer data is available at this moment).

The reason for this is simple, even though the name for it may sound complex. It’s called the Picture Superiority Effect, and it simply refers to the fact that concepts are much more likely to be remembered if they are presented in visual form rather than as words.

This makes sense when you know that the human mind processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text and that 83% of human learning is visual, as opposed to auditory or verbal.

But visual content on its own cannot move audiences to take a certain action. You need stories to do that. This is why storytelling is such an important ingredient in the visual content marketing mix and where it becomes visual storytelling.

 

Storytelling Quote Therese Fowler

 

Storytelling: A Tool for Finding Meaning

Defined simply as the act of narrating a sequence of events that are causally connected, storytelling is at the heart of what makes human beings capable of extracting meaning from seemingly incongruous and unrelated data. In fact, cognitive scientists believe that the human mind innately processes and stores incoming information in the form of stories.

To see for yourself how the human mind makes sense of information by creating stories, read the following three sentences:

He went to the store

Fred died.

Sharon went hungry and wept.

After reading this, did you assume that “he” in the first sentence referred to “Fred” in the second sentence? Did you somehow connect Sharon with Fred and conclude that she wept because Fred died? Did you also assume that Fred went to a grocery store to get something for Sharon to eat?

This short exercise from Kendall Haven’s book Story Proof: The Science Behind the Startling Power of Story reveals how the brain, by default, creates stories from a series of events even if they are unrelated. According to psychologist Jerome Bruner, the human mind uses narratives to give shape to events in the real world and then perceives them as reality.

“Why do we use story as the form for telling about what happens in life and in our own lives? Because, most often, life follows story form and format. We use it because it usually works. Because it usually works, we have learned to rely on it as our primary mental model,” he writes.

Another reason stories are preferred by the human mind is that they bring order to the events we perceive around us. Because the human mind is always demanding meaning, whether consciously or unconsciously, it goes so far as to create, and even invent, connections between events by using basic story elements such as cause-and-effect sequencing, common themes and character analysis. What’s more, if the mind cannot create an orderly narrative from incoming information, it tends to ignore it.

To say the least, stories are powerful. When combined with visual content, they can send a message, incite emotions and move to action more effectively than any other form of communication out there.

Now that we’ve explored the reasons behind why visual storytelling surpasses all other content forms, it’s time to take a look now at the trends that are shaping its future, at least this year. But before we dive into that I would suggest to let this sink in. Later this week we’ll get back to you on the visual storytelling trends that are expected for 2016, when we continue with Part 2 of this article. So stay tuned and don’t hesitate to let us know what you think!

Film Production Set

Production Houses As a One-Stop Shop

More and more brands are going straight to production houses for the creation of their online video content. Many brands know the power and influence behind well-executed web video advertising. However, more and more of them are going around their agency for their online video needs.

When all a brand needs is a short, one-off piece unrelated to a larger, strategic marketing campaign, it now tends to tap digital studios, therefore cutting out the middle-man ad agency that would, on the whole, cost more. This tactic leads to a faster production schedule and better guarantee that the video will be a success among digital audiences.

“It’s about hiring execution,” said Altimeter analyst Rebecca Lieb to AdWeek. “Agencies do a lot of strategy and ideation, which is sometimes not what you need. Sometimes, you just need to get stuff done.”

Online Production

Freshpet’s recent video ad with the Apparently Kid is a perfect example of a large brand hitting up an online video-focused production studio. To create the video ad, the pet food company partnered with ShareAbility, whose tagline reads “We Create Content for the YouTube Generation.” And YouTube audiences definitely loved Freshpet and ShareAbility’s work; the Apparently Kid video now boasts over 3.5 million views and was shared more than 35,000 times, which caused a 416% spike in daily traffic to Freshpet’s site.

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“The Internet has changed everything in terms of how consumers find, curate and watch branded content, and this is putting tremendous pressure on traditional ad agencies,” said ShareAbility’s CEO Tim Staples. “Succeeding at YouTube requires an expertise that most general ad agencies don’t have, and the smart ones are not willing to risk a $50 million account for a $500,000 piece of content.”

But ad agencies do have their place, and a very important one at that. “Where the production companies can fall short is if the brand is in need of a greater strategic vision, including distribution and how you’re going to get in front of your target audience,” said Rapt Media’sErika Trautman. “I have seen production companies lose business because they can’t compete at that level.”

Web Series

A good example of a brand that worked with both an ad agency and a digital studio comes from Subway. The restaurant chain used production house Content and Co. to create its five-episode comedy web series called Summer With Cimorelli (starring YouTube a cappella group Cimorelli). However, both Content and Co. and Subway left the in-store and larger broadcast promotions to ad agencies.

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While some campaigns will require the assistance of creative agencies, it’s highly likely we’ll see more brands going straight to digital production studios in the future. It looks like this is becoming a trend, as more and more production houses are taking on more tasks and get close to being ad agencies.

8 Advertising Predictions for 2016, Only One of Which Will Likely Happen

1 Content-Schmontent. Yes, the smart brands will continue to produce content that is helpful, beautiful, engaging, and useful. But content can be clutter just like ads and just posting cool content on the site-of-the-month probably isn’t going to be enough to break through. Brands probably ought to reallocate some of their massive digital budgets to plain ol’ advertising — to drive viewers to all that cool new content.

2 Just because the media world has gone kaleidoscopically-fractal, brands do not have to follow suit. For some brands, it may pay to set up camp at one or two of the emerging media and just call it home for awhile.

3 More and more magazines will start focusing on long-copy, deeply researched articles. Personally, I can’t lean into a laptop and read anything for more than a minute. Lean-back platforms like tablets and smartphones help a little bit, but then the screen size or the re-flowing can fragment my understanding of articles of length or substance. I find myself having to scroll back and forth. I guess I subscribe to the idea of subscriptions, you know — good ol’ magazines the mail. I’m digging the new Newsweek with their two longish articles per issue. I also love FastCompany and Harper’s. The paper versions.

4 Influencer marketing is gonna get crazy bigger. I just read on Forbes.com that 25% of all branded search results is user-generated. Not brand-created, but from bloggers and YouTube stars. My friend the super-smart Emily Sanders, CD at 360i, just gave a cool presentation showing how businesses are getting back something like $6 for every $1 spent on influencer marketing. As the venerable David Ogilvy once said, “Dat be cray.”

5 I haven’t got the iPhone 6 yet. (I’m holding out for iPhone 28.) I am however looking forward to using Apple Pay and my guess is that ’16 will be the year mobile payments go nuclear. I remember in the ‘90s it took years for people to trust putting their credit cards on file with the Amazons of the world. The shift to mobile wallets may not take as long.

6 Speaking of Apple, I worry about my Apple. They aren’t nearly as hot as they once were, but perhaps it’s too much to expect year-after-year breakthroughs from any company; even Apple; or Pixar (remember Cars 2?). I’m hoping they add something massive and cool to the Apple watch to make it the breakthrough product it could’ve been.

7 Have I mentioned how crazy I am about my Nest thermostat? Obviously, other connected objects are coming, but more interesting will be seeing who figures out the “iTunes of connected objects.” Otherwise, by the time I get my iPhone 28 I’ll have to scroll through pages and pages of apps: one for the coffee maker, one for the fridge, the TV, the security system.

8 My final prediction for 2016 is that sometime in January – maybe around the 16th or so but I’m just guessing, okay, don’t hold me to it, what am I, Kreskin? – but sometime in January of 2016, the fifth edition of Hey Whipple, Squeeze This will be released. I predict it will feature tons of new material as well as a smart new contributing author, Edward Boches (late of Mullen, now a student-favorite prof at BU).

Like I said, probably none of this stuff will happen. Except #8.

by Luke Sullivan