1. prefer one story over a collage narrative with multiple scenes

You might see it often: commercials with different scenes (a collage narrative) that mean to highlight different audiences and situations. All in one ad. These types of creatives won’t hold enough attention online. Every separate part can cause viewer dropout (viewers click away). Make sure your commercial has one cohesive storyline, instead of too many separate scenes. A logical transition between the different shots, that is.

We supported Bar-Le-Duc in transitioning their cool TV commercial to the digital world. With their rebranding campaign, the brand aims to reach Gen Z and early millennials. Data shows which storyline gets maximum watch time.

Research among 2,000 representative viewers on YouTube and TikTok shows that the transition between the sex scene and the festival scene is more logical and therefore causes fewer dropouts. In contrast, having the festival scene followed up by the scene with the Dutch ‘bitterball’ proved less logical and therefore causes more loss of viewers. 

Oh yeah, and… Don’t end a scene during the most important skip moment. Which is? On YouTube, between five and seven seconds. These are the crucial seconds, where you have to keep the attention. Do people decide to watch longer than seven to eight seconds? Then you have sparked their interest. And chances are your target audience will continue watching a good amount of your commercial. 

Branding in this most important skip moment? Not too much! Data shows that too much branding causes dropouts. However, this does not mean that branding should not be an important part of your storytelling. Which brings us to the next tip ;-)….

2. let branding be part of your story – but don’t force it

Do you not show your branding during your story, but only in the final card of your commercial? Then that can lead to 75% less brand impressions (!).

So although branding should not be too obvious in the first few seconds, it is important to make branding a part of your story. Subtle, and visible throughout. Think: a watermark logo in the video and references in the voice-over. 

This does not apply to dedicated short-form content. That’s precisely where you don’t use a watermark logo.

An example of a brand that applies this well? Picnic! The signature Picnic bus with clear branding is visible throughout the commercial, but is not present in a showy way.

Bar-le-Duc also subtly makes the brand part of the story with their branded water bottle.

other ground rules around branding?

Provide few distractions at times when branding is shown. How do you know you’re doing it right? Check this with data methods, such as video heatmaps and eye tracking. This is how LOI knew exactly whether the LOI branding was getting the right attention.

If you can, direct your viewer’s attention to elements you want to focus attention on (this is called gaze cueing). How? By having characters in the commercial look at key branding elements. Research showed that LOI used gaze cueing successfully. Viewers’ attention was subtly directed to the logo.

3. spark direct interest with a close up and loads of emotion

Starting with a close-up shot and lots of emotion works better than, say, a side-shot or a shot of something other than a person. So a person looking straight at you with a lot of emotion and a clear facial expression. In this way, you immediately spark interest and hold viewers’ attention better. Moreover, don’t start with a dark scene. 

For example, look at the tweaks made by Achmea in their commercial. With a different opening shot, the financial services provider thus increased viewer retention.

4. align the content of your ad with the interests of your audience

Match the content of your commercial to the interests of your target audience. Map these out. Then use a storyline with scenes that reflect these needs and wants. Bar-le-Duc does this very nicely. The brand does data-driven research on the preferences of different target audiences. So their (re)branding video focuses on young people’s most thirsty moments. After a workout, during a festival or after sex. The result? A strong connection with the target group and a more effective campaign.

5. don’t repurpose the exact commercial on short-form platforms – make dedicated vertical content instead

Do you advertise on vertical platforms, such as TikTok, Instagram Stories and Instagram Reels? If so, cutting up your professionally-created TV commercial is not recommended, as performance is underwhelming in most cases.

Research shows that a traditional TV commercial is much less effective on TikTok compared to YouTube. With TikTok, we see that after only two seconds 90% of viewers often swipe the ad, and after six seconds this percentage rises to 95%.

The reason for this lies in the traditional look and feel of a TV commercial, which puts too much emphasis on branding from the beginning. On platforms like TikTok – where users scroll through content quickly and attention spans are short – such an approach can result in high dropout rates.

So include asset creation for short-form (vertical) platforms in your production process and develop other formats for this purpose. Learn from the short attention span, viewing behavior and user-generated look ‘n feel of TikTok and Instagram content – and adapt your creation accordingly.

maximum impact on your online fall campaign with smart tweaks

The above tips may seem like nuance differences, but make no mistake. Smart tweaks can have a big impact on the performance of your campaign. For example, Volkswagen and Beter Bed generated about 30% more impact on their online commercials with the same media budget. 

Do you want to create fully digital-first creatives? Then you need to approach the creation process differently. Don’t assume a “top-down” approach where you go from the “big idea” to hero expressions and then make cut downs of these commercials. No. Then what? Put a lighter creative formula at the center, where there is room for formats/assets more appropriate to a specific platform. Curious? Feel free to reach out, we’d love to answer all your questions!