What has been the single best implementation of digital advertising I’ve seen? There are loads of nice ads and implementations out there (and loads of humdrum stuff, too).
The Discovery Channel’s pioneering 360° videos on YouTube and the Lego Rebuild the World campaign spring to mind as great recent examples. But beyond being beautifully produced, well-targeted, entertaining and whatnot, what really appeals to me is a digital experience or advert that understands the medium it’s created for – and has fun with it.
That’s why Geico’s series of Unskippable digital ads really hits home. We all know the pain of our carefully curated YouTube playlist being interrupted by a Grammarly ad… for the fiftieth time that day. Like a reflex action, we immediately look to the bottom right-hand side of the screen as we watch that five- (but-feels-like-500) second delay tick down.
It’s this truth that Geico understood and played on with brilliant results. Their Unskippable ads from around 2015 front-loaded everything they wanted the viewer to know in the first few seconds before knowingly stating: You can’t skip this Geico ad, because it’s already over.
Except it wasn’t, because for the next ten, thirty or sixty seconds, the comedy kicks in. The actors – whose cue is to pretend the advert is over – stay statue-still while life carries on around them. Cue awkward moments in lifts, dogs stealing unguarded meatballs, even an homage to the cult classic film, The Breakfast Club.
In short, Geico made an ad built for that 5-second window but that made you want to ignore the skip button and watch the whole thing. YouTube playlist be damned.
Are audiences still receptive to novelty in digital marketing?
Well, I’d first argue that there’s no such thing as digital marketing. Digital is a (hugely important) tactical approach to marketing, but we’re often in danger of conflating digital with marketing strategy when it’s a tactic. Which means the real question is: are audiences still receptive to novelty in marketing as a whole? And the answer is: too right they are!
Novelty is the lifeblood of marketing. Making innovative products, creating more accessible UX platforms, coming up with proper funny advertising – what’s new (as in, what’s different) drives audience participation in the short-term so brands can thrive in the long-term.
Take Old Spice. How did the Skoda (pre-2000 era) of aftershaves create one of the most arresting and successful digital ads ever? Through novelty. By shifting away from its old, stuffy and corny positioning and doing something unexpected, fresh, funny. And it paid off, if these numbers are anything to go by: A hundred million YouTube campaign views, over a billion earned media impressions, features on national and international media networks, a massive uptick in Twitter followers and Facebook fan interaction, a 300% increase in traffic to their website, and on and on.
But novelty fades. People get used to it. Competitors catch up and bring you back into the pack. You’re suddenly not standing out anymore. So you always have to be thinking of new ways to do things. New pricing models, new UX ideas, new creative. It’s not easy, but it’s what audiences want – and it’s what clients should want, too. Fortunately, as marketers, that’s what we’re here for.
Or at least, it should be.
Mark Bower, executive creative director, Woven Agency
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