Ads are, to some people, about as attractive as the Black Plague. Not many would purposefully sit in front of their TV or computer and watch commercials just to do it, unless it’s some big event like the Super Bowl. Still fewer will sit through ads on their computers or tolerate it longer than they have to (as soon as that “Skip Ad” link becomes active, it’s usually clicked). For advertisers, small business or otherwise, the hurdle of getting past a jaded audience’s automatic disinterest might seem insurmountable, but it can be done.
Getting your audience’s attention and keeping it is your primary goal. Even if you offer online advertisements that are tailor-made to your audience’s clicking habits, there’s no guarantee of getting their attention. So how does one get that vaunted attention and, even more importantly, how does one get people buzzing about your products and sharing your ads so they go ‘viral’?
Recent research from Harvard Business School Professor, Thales Teixeira reveals, as seen in this video and this accompanying article, that creating an ad that has the potential to go viral can be done if certain simple steps are followed. These key steps include:
- Lessen Prominent Branding. Prominent branding puts off viewers. Make your brand appear less prominently, or in more of a “brand pulse” manner, where it only briefly shows up throughout the ad. If you can remove your brand image altogether and still make the ad interesting, your viewers might watch longer.
- Get Past Boredom. Getting past audience boredom means adding joy and surprise. Creating these right away will attract viewer attention and keep it. When you invoke these emotions in your viewers, you’re more likely to have your ad passed on from one to another.
- Once They Watch, Keep Them Going. Creating joy and surprise is one thing, but maintaining it is another. Viewers can still get bored from watching something that doesn’t change much, so consider building an emotional roller-coaster. Novelty can easily and quickly wear off, so don’t just give them joy and surprise – take it away, then restore it.
Knowing the motivations of your target audience can help you create something that will “go viral” and be shared among not just your target audience, but their family and friends. Understanding the fine line between joy/surprise and shock is also important. Some people might be more prone to share “surprising” videos than “surprising/shocking” videos, so consider that when you think beating your audience over the head with bleeped-out words or nudity blocked out with black bars will work. It might get their surprise, but will it keep their attention? Would they share it with others? Your audiences motivation to share can be broken down into two categories:
- Altruistic. When your viewer enjoys your ad and thinks their loved ones or friends will truly like it, they will share it. There is little more to the sharing than their belief that the person they send the link to will enjoy the piece because it is appealing or interesting, such as the Evian Roller Babies commercial.
- Self-Interest. People will share because they are looking to gain “social capital” from the sharing. They might not be truly interested in whether or not someone likes it, but they want to appear better through the act of sharing the video. Shocking videos that toe the line of taste might fall more into this category, such as the Bud Light Clothing Drive commercial.
So the bottom line is create something pertinent to your product that is outside of the “normal” ads you might see. Make your viewer experience joy and surprise, take it away, and then give it back to them again. Truly masterful video work can utilize this rollercoaster of emotions several times throughout, leaving the viewer with the feeling they’ve experienced something special. Just keep your audience in mind and you might come up with the next great viral sensation.