Empathy and entertainment key to social media success, says Ipsos 

Ipsos’ head of global products and analytics for Creative Excellence, Adam Sheridan, on how marketers can create social media campaigns that deliver long-term brand growth.

Forget stopping the scroll and delaying the skip — now that social media commands such a large portion of marketing budgets it needs to deliver long-term brand growth, according to Adam Sheridan, head of global products and analytics for Creative Excellence at Ipsos.

Sheridan, who is also the author of a new book, MISFITS: How Creativity In Advertising Sparks Brand Growth, was speaking at Most Contagious on 7 December when he made the comments.

Social media campaigns will constitute 70% of brands’ total media budgets by next year, said Sheridan. So it is important for marketers to ask, ‘How can we get stronger, longer-term effects in our social video advertising?’

Optimising ways to overcome the skip or scroll, while widely practised, might not be the best strategy, he said, as research shows that view time is not strongly related to longer-term effects. In other words, even if you get people to view your ad for longer, you likely won’t get longer-term effects.

Instead, marketers should focus on good quality audience experiences, to get to those sustained benefits. Sheridan came to this conclusion after Ipsos measured the long-term effects potential of nearly 2000 linear video campaigns and cross-referenced the effects of the ads with the kind of experience they delivered.

Through this process, Ipsos was able to identify what it calls the ‘Misfit mindset’, which comprises three distinct advertising experiences.

The first is a creative experience — the sense that you've seen something entertaining and unique, which makes you want to talk about it. The second is creative ideas, which is less about the in-the-moment experience provided by the ad and more about the values or feelings that you take away from it. The final experience deals with empathy, and whether or not something feels represented or understood by a brand’s message.

According to Sheridan, ‘Video ads that consistently deliver these experiences, this intersection of creative experiences and empathetic ones, consistently outperform the average.’ He added: ‘They deliver up to 20% stronger sales effects than those that don't’.

But, said Sheridan, the question today is: to what extent do these experiences apply to social video? And if they do, what can we learn from that to deliver a better audience experience and get to stronger, longer-term effects?’

To find out, Ipsos conducted research on social media, surveying over 1000 users to understand what they wanted from the platforms. It found that entertainment — for example, a video of cats being startled by cucumbers that garnered 90 million views — and trend discovery were key factors.

What’s more, said Sheridan, the proportion of people who continue to watch an ad after the first second ‘somewhat falls off a cliff’, which demonstrates the importance of things like immediate brand cues (which enhance brand attention by 15%) and tight framing (employing singular larger images to capture attention, which enhance memory encoding by 10%). So, yes, branding tactics make sense in social video ads, but they should be regarded as only the starting point — as the baseline to create truly effective work in the long term.

Delivering a high-quality audience experience that enables trend discovery on social media and shows empathy to the audience yields far greater results, said Sheridan: ‘What happens when we express empathy for our audience, when we talk about them, when we show them people like them, and when the brand fits within that, is we see three times those effects. So we see clearly the power of delivering a good audience experience, rather than just focusing on where we place our logo.’

Sheridan concluded his talk with some advice on juxtaposing empathy with entertainment to create maximum impact.

‘While empathy and ideas are really important for social — and I think we can do a better job delivering that human experience — a little entertainment can go a very long way,’ he said. ‘Think about entertaining people and adding value to their experience. And if you do that, you'll be on a really good footing to get some longer-term ad effects in your social media buys.’

If you’d like to learn about how creativity and empathy can spark brand growth, check out Ipsos MISFITS here.

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